Auckland housing: A crisis by any other name

Bill English is letting other people call Auckland's housing woes a 'crisis' (Hans Weston / Newshub.)
Bill English is letting other people call Auckland's housing woes a 'crisis' (Hans Weston / Newshub.)

The Finance Minister has described the upcoming Budget as "predictable", but is leaving people guessing whether there's anything to help the Auckland housing market.

Bill English was at the annual printing of the Budget in Petone this morning, but wasn't giving much away before the big day on Thursday.

He danced around the term "housing crisis" which has been thrown around by all political parties bar National, particularly about Auckland housing.

"For people who have serious housing need, it's real pressure.

"You can argue about the words, but I think crisis is overstating it. People can call it what they like, what we know is the way Auckland planning has worked is that it has excluded low and middle income people from the housing market."

Mr English says the Government faces the same challenges as others when buying property for social housing in Auckland -- it doesn't matter how much money they put in, there just aren't houses to buy yet.

"The issue, particularly in Auckland, is not a lack of finance, it is the lack of houses. We can pay for all the houses we can procure, so the limitation is how many houses are available and suitable for social housing; the limitation is not money."

He said there'd be "some measures" around social housing, but when asked about specific help for first-home buyers, he coyly responded: "You'll have to wait and see."

In a rare move, National agreed with a Labour proposal to scrap Auckland's urban boundary to take down the "arbitrary" line around the city which is pushing up land prices.

But following the announcement, Auckland Council said servicing the land outside the Metropolitan Urban Limit would cost $17 billion over 30 years for infrastructure.

"No one wants to see development in areas which aren't properly serviced -- it needs to be properly sequenced and thought out," the council said.

But Mr English said the council could "work their way through" those problems because more houses means more rates.

Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett says she's "trying to pull every lever" she could to make the situation better for those needing housing. 

She also appears to be the only one in National to use the word crisis when it comes to housing.

"For those people who certainly don't have one it is a crisis without a doubt."

Labour leader Andrew Little says crisis mode has well and truly hit the housing market, but believes it is also spreading to education and health.

"If they want to do a Budget that's going to meet the needs of middle New Zealand then they're going to have to address those issues and that's what we'll be looking for."

Mr Little says the Government "must start somewhere", the first step of which is for it to admit there's a problem.

Labour says its plan for a government-led house-building plan needs to be put in place.

"Use its power -- power to borrow cheaply, power to negotiate with building material suppliers, power to, if necessary, regulate land accessibility and get a house building programme underway focusing on affordable housing and additional social housing."

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei says as long as the Government fails to recognise the problem with housing, not enough will be done to fix it.

"This Government is very good at denying there's a problem but unfortunately for New Zealanders, they're very bad at creating real housing solutions that allow more people to buy a home or to put a roof over their heads.

Last week, the party launched a policy which would see Housing New Zealand be able to build around 450 new homes using the money it would normally pay the Government in dividends and tax in the next year.

But the Government believes the current rate of building Housing New Zealand is undertaking with surpass the Greens' plan.