National's Judith Collins on what she likes and dislikes about Government's housing changes

Judith Collins is pleased the Government changed deposit assistance eligibility requirements for first-home buyers, but she's not a fan of tax changes intended to turn-off property investors. 

Last week the Government rolled out policies to try and bolster housing affordability and provision, including expanded eligibility for first home grants and loans, tax tweaks to slow buying demand from investors, and a $3.8 billion infrastructure fund. 

The expanded home loan and grant settings are a change National is on board with, Collins told Magic Talk on Monday. But she doesn't think the changes go far enough to truly help first-home buyers into the market. 

"Some things we like," Collins said. "We like extending the limits for the first-home buyers, but it's not enough."

By increasing the income caps, approximately 9300 additional couples and 3700 additional singles who are currently renting will be able to qualify for the first home loan and grant assistance, according to the Government. 

But those seeking to apply for the Government assistance in Auckland will only qualify if the property is worth less than $700,000, which some commentators suggest is unrealistic, in a city where the median house price is $1 million. 

"That's going to be a challenge, to say the least," Collins told Magic Talk. 

The $3.8 billion Housing Acceleration Fund, intended to help councils pay for roads, pipes and other infrastructure, is also something Collins would keep. But she's concerned about the fund's vagueness. 

"We'll obviously keep the infrastructure fund, we think that's a good idea, but as usual the problem is with these people, they never put the detail in," Collins said. "It's always the detail that gets them."

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development website has an A4 PDF document available to read about it, which National says is not good enough considering the significant amount of money

Housing Minister Megan Woods will be taking the final design and criteria for the fund to Cabinet by the end of June, but says in-principle decisions have already been made, and work is "well underway" to understand what could be funded.

National leader Judith Collins.
National leader Judith Collins. Photo credit: Newshub / Zane Small

The Government's tax changes to quash investor demand include extending the bright-line test from five years to 10, meaning property owners will have to pay income tax on a property if it's sold within less than 10 years, except for family homes and new-builds. 

Collins has already labelled the bright-line test extension a capital gains tax in disguise. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern ruled out a comprehensive capital gains tax in 2019. 

Collins has also criticised the Government for extending the bright-line test after Finance Minister Grant Robertson promised not to do it during the election campaign.

Robertson has since admitted to being "too definitive" in ruling it out.  

If National wins the next election, Collins promises to return the bright-line test to two years, as it was when National introduced it back in 2015. 

"The bright-line test was only ever put in to make sure we actually took people who were making their living off flipping houses within two years that they ended up paying some tax on it, because they were in the business of flipping houses. That's not the same as someone who keeps a house for five years or 10 years," she said. 

"We'll take that straight back."

National has also pushed back on the Government's plan to remove tax deductions on interest costs for rental properties, which has been described as a "tax loophole".  

But Ardern is standing by the policy, despite it taking many in the industry by surprise. She told The AM Show on Monday it "needs to go", even though investors are threatening to hike rents to cover the costs.  

The Government's new measures may have already spooked investors out of the market, with some open homes surprisingly quiet over the weekend. It could suggest that lessening the attractiveness of property investing is having an immediate impact.  

But Collins says it's probably just uncertainty following the Government's housing announcements. 

"There will be some mum and dad investors with their one or two properties that they've been renting out who will say 'I can't be bothered anymore, it's too hard' and they'll sell-up," she said. 

"But the thing is, there's no particular guarantee that a first-home buyer is going to be able to afford that and it may be a second- or third-home buyer - that's the other thing that happens."

Collins says the ultimate issue is housing supply. 

"That the market will actually move upwards... house prices will continue to rise and they certainly will when there's no particular extra supply," she said. "There's simply not enough supply to deal with it."