Election 2017: the housing round up

Monday 18 September 2017

It’s been a dramatic election campaign this year, with National and Labour now racing neck and neck to the finish line this Saturday. So here’s our guide to what the parties are promising on the housing front.

By Miriam Bell

National has announced a fully-costed housing plan which will see 100,000 new homes built over the next three years and 200,000 over the next six years. The Crown Building Project, which will deliver 34,000 homes to Auckland over the next 10 years, is part of this.

To assist with this plan, the party will make it easier to find land for new builds and introduce new fit-for-purpose urban planning laws separate from the Resource Management Act to encourage more responsive planning and faster development.

The party wants to boost infrastructure provision to support residential development. To this end, it has established the $1 billion Housing Infrastructure Fund to support councils in high-growth areas to build infrastructure for large housing subdivisions.

National recently announced it will double the financial support available for first-home buyers of existing houses and increase it for new builds. It will help first home buyers access KiwiSaver savings, HomeStart grants and Welcome Home Loans.

When it comes to tenants’ rights, the party believes that current tenancy law is about right when it comes to balancing the rights of landlords and tenants. It does not plan to introduce new legislation in this area.

Labour has a suite of housing policies, including a KiwiBuild programme which aims to build 100,000 affordable homes over 10 years and plans to grow the building workforce.

The party has been very clear that it wants to crack down on “speculators”. To this end, it plans to extend the bright line test from two years to five years, will restrict foreign buyers to new builds, and will remove negative gearing.

It also plans to establish a Tax Working Group which will look at a broad suite of tax reforms. This would include a capital gains tax. However, the party has now committed to not introducing any of the Group’s recommendations before the 2020 election.

The party’s Healthy Homes Bill, which would introduce a set of minimum standards for rental properties, is already progressing steadily through the Parliamentary process. But Labour has recommitted to making it become law. Grants of up to $2000 to upgrade insulation and heating will be made available to landlords.

Additionally, Labour plans to increase landlord notice periods to 90 days, abolish “no-cause’ tenancy terminations, limit rental increases to once a year, and ban letting fees.

It is no surprise that NZ First also has plans in relation to foreign buyers. The party will ensure New Zealand’s housing stock is restricted to New Zealanders by making non-residents foreign buyers ineligible for home ownership.

It will also boost insulation subsidies, provide accelerated deprecation for landlords to invest in energy efficient housing, review building standards to improve building quality and make adequate insurance cover compulsory for all homes.

The establishment of a new state agency to acquire and develop land for residential development will also be on the cards for NZ First.

It will simplify and improve the security of tenancies, and limit rent increases, but the party opposes a capital gains tax as well as the bright line test.

Labour’s potential coalition partner, the Green Party, has a policy to introduce a capital gains tax - for all properties but the family home and wants to ban overseas based investment on property. 

It will introduce a "rent-to-buy" progressive ownership scheme, with affordable loans to first-home buyers.

Over the weekend the party announced a “make every house a home” policy. This will see the introduction of a mandatory warrant of fitness for rental properties by 2019, landlords required to put aside a maintenance bond to fund repairs and maintenance, and the implementation of a landlord register.

The policy also aims to strengthen tenants’ rights. This will be done via reform of the Tenancy Tribunal, the promotion of three year standard tenancies, limiting rental increase to once a year and banning letting fees. A national coordination office for tenancy issues will be established.

The Maori Party is concerned about the high numbers of Maori and Pacific people struggling due to the housing crisis. It wants to create a Minister for Maori and Pacific Housing and to establish a housing sector committee to design a long term government enabled housing strategy.

It wants to build 90,000 affordable houses by 2022 and will subsidise private developers to include a percentage of affordable housing in their projects. It also wants to increase the number of homeowners. To this end, it will introduce “rent to buy” options, “equity financing” for first time home buyers, and provide low interest loans.

Improving tenants’ rights is also on the party’s agenda. It will enforce a compulsory annual warrant of fitness for all rental homes, explore rent caps for private rentals, and review the bond refund system to create more streamlined processes to get bonds released sooner.

Further, it wants to introduce a capital gains tax for rental properties, to be offset by tax credits for landlords who rent homes that meet a minimum WOF standard for warm, safe and affordable housing.

ACT believes the housing crisis is all about the restriction of land supply and the monopolisation of infrastructure provision and the consenting process by local and central government.

The party will replace the Resource Management Act and incentivise councils to consent new houses and build infrastructure by letting them keep a portion of GST from new construction in their territory.

It will also reduce the costs of building and materials by getting councils out of the building consent business, replacing it with a regime of mandatory private insurance.

UnitedFuture’s most notable housing policy is the establishment of a rent-to-buy system for young families and first home buyers.

Under the policy, half of the affordable houses being constructed under the Government’s Auckland build project would be offered as rental properties – but part of the rent would go towards purchasing a share of ownership in the house.

The party has also said that it will simplify the process of converting cross-leased sections to freehold title and contribute to resolving the housing crisis through schemes like freeing up land blighted by electricity pylons by putting the cables underground.

The Opportunities Party also has some headline grabbing tax policies. Its position is that all productive assets – including housing and land – can produce income annually and all income should be taxed, whether it is in cash or in kind.

To this end, it will levy an annual tax on property owners which it believes will help reign in house prices and crack down on property speculation.

The party also wants to introduce a German rental market model. This involves changing current tenancy laws to make it easier for a tenant to remain in a rental property long-term. The reasons for evicting a tenant will be restricted to non-payment of rent or property damage.

Additionally, rental properties will have to be sold with existing tenants in residence. While market rents will still apply, regulations to prevent existing tenants being priced out of the rental properties they live in will be introduced.

Read more:

Housing – National vs Labour 

Election 2017 – what investors need to know 

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