Green Party disappointed by Government's housing measures, sick of 'tired excuses'

The Green Party has called the Government's housing action "disappointing", saying it's a "disservice to New Zealanders" that they continue to rule out measures that could help fix the housing crisis.

House prices have soared by 20 percent over the past year due to low-interest rates, and property investors are competing with first home buyers for limited properties.

Prices have also defied predictions of a COVID-19 crash with median house prices in Auckland tipping over $1 million in November.

On Tuesday, the Government announced a review of housing settings.

"Our focus is on improving access to the housing market for first home buyers and ensuring house price growth does not distort the effectiveness of our overall economic rebuild - which we want focussed on the productive side of the economy," Finance Minister Grant Robertson said.

"We have been clear about the policy responses that we are not prepared to consider, but there are other options that need to be investigated."

It was also revealed Robertson had written to the Reserve Bank Governor Adrian Orr requesting him to consider how the bank can help to stabilise house prices.

In a statement on Tuesday afternoon, Green Party co-leader and spokesperson on Housing Marama Davidson said the letter was a positive step forward, but more still needed to be done.

"We are glad that the Government is exploring options to address the housing crisis, but it is disappointing that they've dug their heels in on measures that could help fix the problem," she said.

"It is a disservice to New Zealanders not to use all of the tools in the toolbox to fix this runaway housing crisis, and that includes taxing wealth or capital."

Jacinda Ardern ruled out a capital gains tax (CGT) in April 2019, under the former coalition government, and under her future leadership.

Ardern said while she still believes there are inequalities in the tax system and that a CGT could have helped resolve it, the Government was "unable to build a mandate for a capital gains tax".

"While I have believed in a CGT, it's clear many New Zealanders do not. That is why I am also ruling out a capital gains tax under my leadership in the future."

But on Tuesday Green Party Finance spokesperson Julie Anne Genter said it was ruled out before the world was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has created an economic downturn and skyrocketing house prices.

"Other options we will put forward outside of critical tax reform could be doing more to take pressure off monetary policy, for example by stimulating the economy through raising benefits and building more quality, affordable, public and community housing," Genter said.

Labour's current housing plan includes removing barriers to building by repealing the Resource Management Act (RMA) and continuing with KiwiBuild despite first-term failures.

Ardern wants to continue repealing the RMA by removing restrictive planning rules she says are one of the causes of high house prices.

But Genter said: "blaming the RMA is a tired excuse".

"No doubt the RMA needs fixing, but it's only one factor. It won't fix property speculation or land-banking. 

"It is time to courageously put the case for measures that will help end growing inequality in this country."

However, National and ACT were happy with Robertson's decision to write to the Reserve Bank on house prices.

"I'm glad he's following our lead because it is so important to New Zealanders, particularly to first-home buyers. We need to deal with this properly and we need to look after New Zealanders," National's Andrew Bayly said on Tuesday. 

ACT leader David Seymour that the Reserve Bank Governor's assertion that if New Zealand didn't have a housing bubble we'd have a depression instead, couldn't be the only two choices available.

"A saner approach to monetary policy will be a massive relief to younger New Zealanders. Loose monetary policy means they see their future getting further away while they stand still," Seymour said.

"As ACT has argued for some time, the Reserve Bank is not fighting inflation if the inflation is in asset prices. The Reserve Bank's mandate needs to be changed to include asset price stability.

"By writing to the Reserve Bank Governor saying exactly that, Grant Robertson has vindicated ACT's position that the Bank should consider asset prices, not just the consumer price index, when setting policy."