Taskforce must maintain momentum

Tuesday 13 March 2018

The rebooted Mayoral Housing Taskforce has taken the lead in the drive to address Auckland’s housing shortage but an independent strategist says its progress must be monitored.

By Miriam Bell

Last week government ministers formally committed the Government to working with Auckland Mayor Phil Goff’s Housing Taskforce to tackle the city’s housing crisis.

This signals a reinvigoration of the Housing Taskforce, which has remained silent since the release of its report and recommendations last June.

Housing strategist Leonie Freeman has spent 19 months working on an independent initiative addressing the issue but last week’s news means she is now stepping back.

She says there is no point in having two groups working on the same issue and that all the work her group has done was about saying ‘Auckland has a major problem: how can we address it’.

“I am heartened that the Taskforce will be trying to do that and that the Mayor wants to be the one to lead the drive to do so.

“But I would hate to see the momentum that we have built up on this issue dissipate.”

Minister of Housing Phil Twyford, Auckland Deputy Mayor Bill Cashmore, and a range of industry, NGO and iwi chief executives attended Freeman’s most recent housing action event in February.

She says the event marked a sea-change in official attitudes and, at the time, thought her group and the Taskforce might be merged together.

However, Goff has subsequently said there will be no merging of the two groups.

Freeman says it is necessary to have a backbone organisation which provides resources and co-ordination, leads the action and ensures reporting so it is great that the Council will be doing that.

But a key focus must be on how the recommendations of the Taskforce are implemented in order to provide desperately needed housing for Auckland, she says.

“There needs to be an implementation plan with KPIs. There needs to be someone who is responsible for it all in Council, who people can go to if they want to contribute in some way. There needs to be regular updates to report on progress.

“We need to see that there is action on this issue, rather than just talk. Auckland is crying out for a solution to this problem. So this can’t be just a political stunt.”

Central government’s commitment to working with the Taskforce is also encouraging but their involvement shouldn’t be just about KiwiBuild, Freeman says.

“KiwiBuild’s goal for Auckland is to build 5,000 new houses each year but Auckland needs at least 14,000 new houses build every year. So KiwiBuild is just one part of the solution.

“It is important that people don’t think that KiwiBuild will be the answer to the problem because it won’t be. Private sector development is also critical.”

She has always emphasised that residential investors have a key role to play in any solution to Auckland’s housing problem.

“The challenge is to ensure that public and private groups come together across the board to work towards dealing with the shortage.”

Freeman will be keeping a watching brief on the Taskforce’s progress and will speak out if work appears to be flagging. Her initiative, which includes a database of 500 to 600 people, is happy to provide support to the Taskforce where needed.

Read more:

Boosting Auckland housing development 

Landlords key to solving crisis 

Making a difference for housing supply 

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