Labour pains, National delivers

18/12/2019

National promised eight policy papers this year and they’ve delivered.

The government promised this year would be their year of delivery and they haven’t.

You’ll find National discussion documents here.

You’ll find the government’s broken promises here.

They include: child poverty heading in the wrong direction, the level of homelessness is appalling, elective surgery numbers have dropped, economic growth has dropped from 4% under National to 2.1%; job growth has fallen from 10,000 a month under National to just 3,000 under Labour; per capita growth is only 0.5 per cent a year compared with average of 1.7% a year during the last five years under National; the number of people on the dole is up by 22,000, the number of New Zealanders heading overseas has increased by 10,000 a year, the billion trees promise isn’t being delivered and won’t be, not a single cent of the the $100 million Green Investment Fund that was supposed to kick-start $1 billion of investment in ‘low carbon’ industries has been invested, the  commitment this year to making the entire Government fleet emissions-free by mid-2025 was dropped, the government hasn’t been able to find a credible way to introduce a royalty on bottled water exports without trampling all over trade and other agreements with countries New Zealand does business with, yet another working group was set up to address waste minimisation but hasn’t come up with anything yet, the bold goals for housing have been dropped, The 4000 new apprentices target has been quietly dropped. Only 417 have started the Mana in Mahi programme and 32% of them dropped out . . .

Rodney Hide sums it up saying the year of delivery got lost in the post:

This was supposed to be the turnaround year. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declared 2019 her Year of Delivery. Nothing has been delivered. Her promise has proved, like her government, empty and meaningless. 

The tragedy is that we accept it. It’s enough that politicians feel and emote; there’s no need to do or achieve anything. We should perhaps rename the country New Feel-Land. . . 

That’s the Year of Delivery done and dusted.

But there’s always next year. The prime minister has plastics again in her sights. She says it’s what children write to her about most. There are news reports she’s planning on banning plastic stickers on fruit.

I scoffed when we had government by focus group. We now have government by school project. . . 

Garrick Tremain sums it up:

What’s all that hot air doing to our emissions profile?

Reducing those is another failure, in spite of the commitment to reducing them being the PM’s nuclear-free moment, they’re increasing and will continue to for the next five years.

A new government ill-prepared for the role might have been excused a first year finding its feet but there’s no excuse for failing so badly to deliver in on its promises in what was supposed to be its year of delivery.


Home and away

04/11/2019

More than a third of New Zealanders think the Prime Minister is too focused on overseas.

The latest Newshub-Reid Research Poll asked New Zealanders: “Is the Prime Minister too focused overseas?”

    • Most said no: 55.3 percent
    • But more than a third think Ardern is too overseas-focused: 35.9 percent
    • Even some Labour voters agree: 14.3 percent. . .

One of a PM’s roles is international relationships and overseas travel is part of that.

My criticism isn’t the time she spends away and her international focus per se, it’s that there are too many problems at home on which she doesn’t appear to be focused and which she either isn’t addressing or is addressing poorly.

Here’s just one example:

All her year of delivery is delivering is disappointment.


Red tape rules

18/10/2019

Louis Houlbrooke tweets:

 

Anyone seeking causes for New Zealand’s poor productivity, housing shortage and high cost of building should start here.


Making more houses more expensive

16/10/2019

Retirement Commissioner Peter Cordtz is suggesting people could be allowed to withdraw KiwiSaver funds to buy investment properties:

Home ownership has been declining for the past 30 years, from a high of about 78% in the 1980s, to about 55% today.

Māori and Pasifika have fared the worst – today only 35% of Māori and 20% of Pasifika own their own homes.

About 12% of New Zealanders aged 65-plus are renting, making them eligible to apply for the Accommodation Supplement if they are struggling. The cost to taxpayers of the accommodation supplement paid to people 65+ has already increased 92% in the past six years, from $88 million in 2013 to $170 million in the year ended March 2019.

This is on top of the cost of NZ Super, currently $39 million a day and forecast to rise to $120 million a day in 20 years due to the ageing population.

“Super wasn’t designed to cover rent – it currently pays $411 for a single person; $632 for a couple. At that rate, it assumes you have housing sorted,” says Cordtz.

“The cost of declining home ownership is a problem that affects all of us, and we need a circuit breaker,” says Cordtz. “If we can get more people on the property ladder earlier, there may be less liability to taxpayers later.”

One idea open to public submissions is to loosen the KiwiSaver rules related to withdrawing savings for a deposit on a first home. Currently, the KiwiSaver member has to live in that property, but high house prices in cities like Auckland, Wellington and Tauranga mean it is difficult for members who work in those cities to purchase a home there to live in.

“If they could buy a property in a more affordable part of the country, they could use it as an investment to progress on the property ladder or simply to retire to one day,” says Cordtz.

He says the idea originally came from a Māori mortgage broker who was trying to help clients buy property near whānau in areas other than where they worked.

“We see this as an idea that could help a lot of New Zealanders get on the property ladder and create a long-term investment to aid retirement,” says Cordtz. . . 

I see this as an idea that could make it harder for a lot of other New Zealanders get on the property ladder.

High prices in several places is a problem for people wanting to buy their first home or upgrade an existing one, and not just the cities mentioned. Wanaka and Queenstown are at least as expensive.

The root cause is one of supply and demand.

Allowing people to use KiwSaver funds to buy investment properties will give people a bit more to spend but do nothing to increase the number of properties available.

Won’t that spread the problem of rising prices fueled by demand outpacing supply to other places, many of which have lower wages than in the places where people are already struggling to buy a first home?

The last thing would-be home owners in smaller towns and less densely populated cities need is buyers from other places competing with them and spreading the problem of property inflation wider.


Property rights matter to all

24/09/2019

Who’s standing up for property rights?

The Government’s handling of Ihumātao has shown it has no respect for property rights, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says. 

“It’s been eight weeks since the Prime Minister told Fletcher Buildings it had to stop developing much needed houses on land that it owns. Since then, Fletchers has not been invited to be part of negotiations. It’s had to sit on the side-line as others have tried to take away its rights.

“It has set an appalling precedent for a Prime Minister to insert herself into the business of a private company and prevent it from building 480 much needed houses.

Does the Prime Minister even have the right to tell a company it can’t go about its lawful business on its own land?

“No wonder business confidence has plummeted when the Prime Minister shows such blatant disregard for businesses and property rights.

“It doesn’t matter where in the world the Prime Minister is, it’s time for her to set the record straight. She needs to tell the protestors to go home, make it clear that the Government won’t be spending taxpayers’ dollars on buying the land and rule out any sort of deal.

“This matter doesn’t concern her. It’s time to butt out and give Fletchers back the land they legally own.”

Jacinda Ardern’s interference has done nothing to solve the problem. It’s made it worse.

If the government gives, or loans, the Iwi anything at all towards purchasing the land, it will open up the opportunity for every other iwi to renegotiate what were supposed to be full and final Treaty settlements.

Worse than that, it has sent a very clear message it doesn’t respect property rights which are a fundamental building block of democracy.

Private property was exempt from treaty settlements for a very good reason. The wrongs treaty settlements were to compensate for were started when Maori property rights were ignored in the past and could not be righted by infringing other people’s, including those of Maori, in the present and future.

Property rights matter for everyone and it is well past the time when the Prime Minister’s interference in Fletchers’ right to exercise theirs must stop.


Water woes not just rural

19/09/2019

It’s not just farmers who are facing huge costs from the government’s proposed freshwater strategy.

. . .Rural residents are showing up in their hundreds to public meetings about the scheme, despite it being the busiest time of year for them. But on the whole townies don’t seem to be so aware of the proposals, Federated Farmers environment spokesperson Chris Allen said.

“This package affects urban – our city cousins, as much as it does farmers. This is going to be huge, this is not just a farming package.

“The fact that it affects councils [means] everyone needs to understand that it’s a big undertaking and it’s going to cost a lot of money, so expect rates to go up.”

The package announced on 5 September includes plans to improve the health of waterways, such as national standards for managing stormwater and wastewater, and tighter controls on urban development. . . 

What will this do to the government’s purported aim of solving the housing shortage? Tighter controls on urban development will add costs to building and reduce the supply of new houses.

Engineer and clean water advocate Greg Carlyon has previously told RNZ the changes were likely to cost “many many billions”.

These costs include those from what has to be done to meet new standards and loss of production; the army of advisors who will be needed as well as more compliance officers and council staff.

Anti-farming activists have highlighted the impact animals and chemicals can have on rural waterways. There’s been very little attention paid to urban run-off . The more concrete and tar seal, the more people and pets, and the more vehicles there are, the more run-off there will be and the more detrimental the impact on water quality.

A lot of towns and cities also have inferior sewer and stormwater systems the upgrading of which to meet the proposed standards will be very, very expensive.

We all want clean water but the answers to the questions of how clean and at what cost won’t just impact farmers. They will add constraints and costs to urban activities and increase council rates for us all.

If any candidates for council elections are promising no rates increases, ask them have they taken into account the cost of meeting the requirements of the freshwater policy and if so what services will they be cutting to ensure rates don’t rise.


Counting down

30/06/2019

David Farrar has been doing a regular count-down on what’s required for the government to keep its KiwiBuild promise:

I don’t usually gamble, but am confident to wager they’re not going to make it, even with all the new ministers.


Labour pains National delivers

31/01/2019

The National Party will put an end to tax bracket creep:

A National Government would link income tax brackets to inflation, ensuring income taxes are adjusted every three years in line with the cost of living and allowing New Zealanders to keep more of what they earn, National Leader Simon Bridges says.

“New Zealanders’ incomes are struggling to keep up with the rising cost of living because this Government is imposing more red tape and taxes,” Mr Bridges said in his State of the Nation speech in Christchurch today.

“Over the next four years, New Zealanders will be paying almost $10,000 more per household in tax than they would have been under National. The Government is taking more than it needs, only to waste billions on bad spending.

“On top of that, by 2022 New Zealanders on the average wage will move into the top tax bracket. That’s not right or fair. So in our first term National will fix that by indexing tax thresholds to inflation.

“We will amend the Income Tax Act so tax thresholds are adjusted every three years in line with the cost of living. That will mean that within a year after every election, Treasury will advise the Government on how much the thresholds should be adjusted for inflation.

“This would prevent New Zealanders from moving into higher tax brackets even when their income isn’t keeping up with the rising cost of living. It would ensure New Zealanders keep more of what they earn to stay on top of rising costs of living such as higher prices for necessities like petrol, rent and electricity.

“We will include a veto clause so the Government of the day can withhold the changes in the rare circumstances there is good reason to. But it will have to explain that decision to New Zealanders.

It would take a very serious change in economic health, or a very stupid government, to do that.

“The changes would make a real difference. Assuming inflation of 2 per cent, someone on the average wage would be $430 a year better off after the first adjustment, $900 after the second and $1,400 after the third.

“A family with two earners – for example, one earning $80,000 and the other $40,000 – would be $600 better off a year after the first adjustment, about $1,300 after the second and $1,900 by the third.

“That’s more of their own money in their own bank accounts.

“The first adjustment would prevent Kiwis from paying an extra $650 million a year in tax based on today’s estimates. We can afford that by managing the books prudently and spending wisely.

“We will also do more on tax – but add no new taxes – and I’ll continue talking about our plans between now and next year’s election.

“National is committed to helping New Zealanders get ahead. This step means that as well as cancelling new taxes this Government has piled on, we won’t allow future governments to use inflation as an annual tax increase by stealth.” 

This is a very positive start to the political year from National and a stark contrast to Labour’s which featured what amounts to an admission of failure on their flagship policy:

KiwiBuild’s “interim” targets for this electoral term have been scrapped as the Government recalibrates the programme.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Housing Minister Phil Twyford told media from their caucus retreat on Wednesday that their commitment to building 100,000 affordable homes over the next decade remains intact, but the interim targets for this term did not.

The Government has been dealing with the fallout from an admission by Twyford that the Government would not be able build 1000 of the homes by July 1, its first interim target. Instead it expects to build just 300.

The KiwiBuild policy aims to build 100,000 affordable homes for first-home buyers over 10 years, half of them in Auckland. . . 

They expect us to believe they can build 100,000 affordable homes in a decade when they can’t build 300 in the first year?

Labour is planning to waste money on houses for a relatively few people earning well above the average income. National has committed to letting people keep a bit more of their own money.

It gives voters a very clear choice – Labour pains over housing or National delivering clear policy to end bracket creep.

 

 


KiwiBuild is KiwiFail again

24/01/2019

A report from the New Zealand Initiative calls KiwiBuild Twyford’s tar baby:

  • Relative to income, dwelling prices in New Zealand are among the highest in the OECD. This is New Zealand’s housing affordability problem in a nutshell.
  • High population-driven demand growth has collided with inflexible supply-side constraints.
  • Land prices have sky-rocketed, but construction costs are also too high.
  • KiwiBuild cannot hope to materially increase home ownership proportions – the original 2012 objective. Additional housing, if achieved, will likely lift renting and ownership more or less in tandem.This report explains why KiwiBuild – defined as the government’s pledge to build or deliver 100,000 homes within a decade – fails against all the objectives set for it:
    • It is not about social housing to help those at the bottom.
    • Nor is it about helping struggling first-home buyers. They cannot afford KiwiBuild homes at current costs. KiwiBuild is for the relatively well-off.
    • It is intended to be subsidy free, since wealth transfers to the well-off are hard to justify. But its inducements to attract private developers are subsidies.
    • Even more paradoxically, if there were no subsidy, there would be no gap for KiwiBuild to fill. Private developers will meet unsubsidised market demand.
    • It cannot hope to increase the housing stock sustainably. Only enduring lower property prices can induce people to own more dwellings than otherwise. KiwiBuild reduces neither land values nor construction costs at the margin.
  • The enduring effect of the policy is a changed composition of the housing stock by decree rather than by public demand.
  • KiwiBuild is floundering having no clear public interest objective. It constitutes a massive political and bureaucratic distraction from what is really needed – direct action to reduce land values and construction costs.

The government should not be in the business of subsidizing property developers and people on well above average incomes.

It purports to be focused on helping the poorest and most vulnerable.

Instead, policies like KiwBuild and fee-free tertiary education waste millions on people who aren’t poor, many of whom are or will be wealthy.

Not only is it a bad policy, it hasn’t a show of meeting its target to build 1000 houses by July.

KiwiBuild is KiwiFail again.


KiwiFiasco

10/12/2018

Last month we learned only seven of Wanaka’s KiwiBuild houses sold.

Last week we learned Housing Minister Phil Twyford hadn’t bothered to run his decision to substantially reduce the penalty KiwiBuild rule breakers would face face for flipping homes past the Prime Minister or cabinet.

We also learned five Auckland KiwiBuild houses failed to sell off the ballot and the runners-up didn’t want them either.

Mike Hosking sums it up:

• A housing scheme that doesn’t have enough money put in, in the first place. That’s Treasury’s assessment.

A housing scheme that won’t contribute anywhere near what the Government said it would to the market. That’s from Treasury and the Reserve Bank.

• A housing scheme that isn’t even close to getting people locked out of the market into a home, given the prices.

• A housing scheme in parts of the country that’s actually more expensive than the open market prices already in play.

• A housing scheme that doesn’t actually have any real demand, given they extended the ballot in places like Wanaka.

• A housing scheme with some homes in Auckland now on the open market, due to the fact the people who won the ballot didn’t want the property, and the runners up didn’t either.

• A housing scheme that is unilaterally being fiddled with, with our money, by a bloke whose head is so big it can’t get through a door.

• And now, a housing scheme that because they changed the rules unilaterally, now needs a dedicated team to monitor who is selling their houses for the profit they’re allowed to keep due to the changes of rules, and that team costs upwards of half a million dollars a year.

That was before Saturday when we learned that the chief executive of KiwiBuild, Stephen Barclay, had resigned a month ago, after just five months in the job, but no-one bothered to let the public know.

KiwiBuild is turning into KiwiFiasco.

 

 

 


KiwiCon lottery gets better for lucky few

08/11/2018

KiwiBuild – or as it should be KiwiCon –  isn’t popular in Wanaka:

The South Island’s much-heralded first foray into KiwiBuild home ownership has been a bit of a fizzer — at least so far.

So few prospective homebuyers have entered the ballot for 10 KiwiBuild house and land packages in the Northlake suburb of Wanaka that the developer has asked to extend the ballot period by 10 days.

The ballot was due to close on Thursday.

KiwiBuild senior media adviser Mark Hanson said yesterday 20 ballot entries had been received.

‘‘Some houses have received no entries and the developer has asked us to extend the ballot to Sunday, November 18, to allow for people who they are working with more time to work through their pre-qualification process.’’ . . 

And Housing Minister Phil Twyford has backed down on penalties for those who flip KiwiBuild properties early:

Documents obtained by Newshub show owners will no longer have to give up all capital gain they make on the house if they sell it within three years. . . 

When Labour announced the policy in 2016, its plan to stop buyers reaping windfall gains was they must not on-sell their home for five years – or else they had to hand all the money they made to the Government.

That’s now changed to if buyers sell within three years, they must give up 30 percent of their profit. . .

There is big money to be made. Based on the last three years, the average price of a home in Papakura has risen from $569,000 to nearly $700,000, meaning house owners could have made $130,000 in the last three years.

That means even after the 30 percent penalty applied by the Government, they’d still pocket more than $90,000.

A $90,000 profit for selling up after three years – that’s very easy money.

But you don’t have to wait three years – you will get to keep 70% of the profit it you sell the very next day.

This is not the first KiwiBuild backdown we’ve seen. Since being in government, Mr Twyford has changed the price caps, the eligibility criteria and now this – a change which has the potential to leave KiwiBuild open for abuse.

With each announcement the KiwiBuild lottery gets better for the lucky few who win.

The government keeps saying KiwiBuild houses aren’t subsidised but if the government isn’t putting money in why would the owners have to hand over any profit if they sell?

At the very least there’s an opportunity cost with money spent on this policy not available for spending on the many areas of much greater need – and that’s people on well below the income level for those who qualify for the KiwiBuild lottery.

You can follow progress on the scheme here – so far only four houses have been sold.

 

 


Growing middle income welfare

01/11/2018

Housing Minister Phil Twyford says KiwiBuild houses aren’t for the poor:

​KiwiBuild isn’t intended to help low-income families, Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford says, in the face of criticism about some of the scheme’s first buyers. . . 

To qualify for a KiwiBuild house, buyers must have joint income up to $180,000 as a couple, or $120,000 as a single person.  Buyers must be first-time purchasers or in the same financial situation as first-home buyers.

KiwiBuild houses sell for up to $650,000, for the largest homes in Auckland.

Twyford said KiwiBuild was aimed at building affordable houses because market failure has led to only 5 per cent of houses being built in this price range in recent years. 

“KiwiBuild is aimed at those families who years ago would have expected to own their own home but have been locked out of the market because of the national housing crisis,” he said.

“It is not a programme aimed at low-income families because they may not be able to service a KiwiBuild mortgage.” . . 

If the houses aren’t for the poor, why are taxpayers’ paying for them?

Houses that are only affordable for people on well above average incomes are affordable in a very limited definition of the word.

People earning that much ought to be able to afford a house without taxpayer assistance.

It might not be brand new. It might not be in the best condition. It might not be in a really desirable suburb. But it would get them on the housing ladder which is a big step above anything low income people could afford.

Labour purports to be the party that helps the poor but its policies increasingly use taxpayers’ money to help people who aren’t poor, boosting the growth of middle and even upper income welfare.

 

 


KiwiCon

29/10/2018

The new owners have moved into the first KiwBuild house.

. . .”It feels amazing, it feels like we have won the Lotto,” said Jayne, who at 25 and about to graduate as a doctor, was thrilled at winning a ballot for one of the first 18 KiwiBuild homes at McLennan Park.

Jayne and her 24-year-old partner Ross, an online marketer, were on the verge of giving up hope of getting on the property ladder in Auckland before “getting lucky” with KiwiBuild. . .

This is Lotto at the taxpayers’ expense.

The new homeowners have won but Auckland Action Against Poverty isn’t impressed:

 While the Government prioritises its flagship home-ownershp scheme, tens of thousands of people continue to be homeless in Aotearoa, with no hope of being able to ever afford living in one of these Kiwibuild homes. Auckland Action Against Poverty warns that the focus on building so called affordable private housing, subject to market speculation, will further exacerbate the housing crisis, instead of fixing it.

“KiwiBuild homes are out of reach for the working poor and the unemployed, who are the ones facing the real brunt of the housing crisis. With a price-tag of half a million dollars, KiwiBuild homes are a future speculator’s dream”, says Ricardo Menendez March, Auckland Action Against Poverty’s Coordinator.

We echo the concerns of Monte Cecilia Housing Trust’s Bernie Smith, who called KiwiBuild a ‘community trainwreck’. Displacing thousands of public housing tenants in order to build private housing in public land is a form of partial privatisation of public land, and will cause distress for the tenants evicted.

“The planned net increase to the social housing stock will only be marginal. In South Auckland, the Government is planning to build 10,000 new homes, 3,000 being state homes, which will be built after demolishing 2,700. This means that altogether only a few hundred additional state homes will be available for our fast growing homeless population.

“The Government needs to recalibrate its priorities and instead focus on building far more permanent social housing than it is currently planning. For that to happen, Housing New Zealand needs to be properly resourced and public land needs to be used to house people in public housing, not unaffordable private houses.

“In a few years time we’ll have state led gentrification, with middle and high income earners being able to access some of the KiwiBuild homes while those at the bottom continue to struggle with fast rising rents and lack of social housing.

“We are calling on the Labour Government to get its priorities right and focus on the creation of social housing, instead of entrenching housing unaffordability”.

The price of the house and the age and occupation of the new owners make KiwiBuild look like more middle to upper income welfare.

If this young, professional, childless couple fit the criteria for a brand new home subsidised by taxpayers, then the criteria is wrong.

Yes it’s hard for people to buy any house in Auckland, and lots of other places. But why is helping people earning well above the average income into their own home a higher priority than meeting the needs of poorer people?

Mike Hosking calls it a con:

We may have discovered the crux of the KiwiBuild problem through some new figures from CoreLogic.

The median price paid by first home buyers for a home, for example, in Auckland, is $699,000. KiwiBuild do them for $650,000, so yes a saving, but not a lot.

What we are discovering here, is that the Government doesn’t appear to be able to do anything the market already isn’t. . . 

The real issue here – and this has become clearer and clearer with time and experience – is not the price of the KiwiBuild home, but the affordability.

At $650,000, you can call these homes anything you want. But affordable, for most, they are not.

Affordable for higher earners, a struggle for middle income people and the poor would need to win Lotto to afford them.

It’s called KiwiBuild, it should be KiwiCONstruction with the empahsis on con.

I don’t blame the couple for playing the game but do blame Labour for bad rules and bad policy.

 

 


Perverse consequences

29/08/2018

Doing something is not the same as doing something useful and can often have perverse consequences.

Exhibit 1:

I used to take bags to the supermarket most of the time.

Now I know they’re being canned, I never take them so I can stockpile them to use to line bins, hold shoes and dirty clothes while travelling, and the myriad other uses I find for so-called single-use bags.

Exhibit 2:

Two friends who own resthomes say they support the increase in caregiver earnings after last year’s pay equity settlement, as do I, but it hasn’t made it any easier to recruit and retain caregivers.

It has also made it harder to recruit and retain nurses who say the difference between their pay and that for caregivers doesn’t make the extra responsibility worth it.

Exhibit 3:

Proposed changes to tenancy law is designed to make renting more secure for tenants.

It will have the perverse consequence of reducing the stock of rental housing when landlords opt for Airbnb or other arrangements which give better returns with fewer hassles.

Exhibit 4:

Home Start grants were supposed to make it easier to buy their first house. But giving people more money without increasing the supply merely pushed up prices.

If government doing something has perverse consequences would it be better if they did nothing?

 


More welfare for well-off

06/07/2018

KiwiBuild is yet more welfare for the wealthy:

KiwiBuild promised to deliver 100,000 affordable houses to help first-home buyers realise the Kiwi dream.

It promised to help average Kiwis into their first home.

But the income test is anything but average. The income caps are so high they may as well not exist.

KiwiBuild promised to deliver 100,000 affordable houses to help first-home buyers realise the Kiwi dream.

It promised to help average Kiwis into their first home.

But the income test is anything but average. The income caps are so high they may as well not exist.

A solo buyer can earn up to $120,000 a year. A couple can earn up to $180,000.

The median income in New Zealand is just under $50,000, and median household income is just over $82,000. . . 

If the government was serious about helping people buy houses it would address the underlying causes of the shortage – the RMA and zoning constraints; the consent requirements and processes; and the high cost of building materials.

Buying houses that would have been built already, selling them to anyone but the top 8% of income earners, regardless of their asset backing and allowing them to sell again and pocket the windfall gain after only three years is economic and political stupidity.

If the well-off can’t afford to buy houses without assistance there’s something wrong with their money management and/or the housing market.

Providing more welfare for the wealthy won’t solve either of those problems.

As the Taxpayers’ Unions shows, the government promised a masterpiece and has delivered a doodle.


KiwiBuy Kiwi Beg KiwiFail

15/05/2018

KiwBuild was supposed to add 100,000 houses for those struggling to get into their first home.

But KiwiBuild has turned into KiwiBuy or even KiwiBeg.

The government buying houses that were going to be built anyway will put public money at risk without adding a single extra dwelling to the nation’s housing stock.

The housing shortage is caused by an imbalance between supply and demand.

There are several reasons for that including a consent process akin to trying to run through a river of treacle in gumboots.

Not PC gives some examples of the hoops that add time and cost to the process:

. . .In recent months, for example, and like every regular applicant for building consents, I’ve spent many, many hours replying to council’s Requests for Further Information (RFIs). These days it’s often less about being a designer than it is about being a lawyer, explaining the building code clauses to the processor at the other end of an email.

The simplest RFI responses are to tell the questioner where precisely in the document set they can find the answer to their question, already addressed. But in recent months it’s been getting worse. Among other things, in order to keep things moving I’ve been required to tell council the make and model of a shower and the finish of a bathroom cabinet; the colour of bedroom carpets (accompanied by a calculation to show they’re bright enough); the normal process by which to pour a concrete footing in engineered soil, to abandon approved details because the territorial authority has decided they don’t like them, and to replace them with those they’ve now decided they do; to discuss the acoustics of polystyrene sheets (that are not being used for acoustic purposes); to resupply calculations and statements that the processor has already received, but lost; to explain why handrails are not required on steps with fewer than two treads, and how an opening window into an open lightwell allows light and air into a room; to draw up a list of a project’s “construction and demolition hazards”; to provide mechanical ventilation rates for areas we’ve shown will use natural ventilation; to draw up simple diagrams because processors are unable to read fairly standard plans; to confirm the use of smoke detectors (when they’ve already been clearly placed and labelled on drawings); and (in the absence of council finding anything else to ask about) to draw a detail of a bathroom splashback — just some examples of recent Requests from processors, all of which have wasted my time and theirs, unnecessarily dragging out the consenting process, and all at the time and expense of clients who were once very eager to build. . .

The worst example that I’ve come across was an applicant being asked to draw on a plan where the furniture would go.

If the government was really serious about a long-term solution to housing it would be addressing problems with the Resource Managment Act and building regulations.

It would also ensure council staff stop playing silly beggars with the consent process.

Until that happens KiwiBuild, KiwiBuy and KiwiBeg will be KiwiFail.

 

 

 


$600,000 is cheap?

26/03/2018

Housing Minister Phil Twyford announced what looked like a big boost to Auckland’s housing supply yesterday.

It didn’t take National’s housing spokeswoman Judith Collins to point out it was old news:

“The previous Government signed off on Unitec’s investment plans to consolidate their campus and develop the spare land for housing.

“The plan change has already been through Auckland Council. We know that because various local councillors were opposing the development.

“All that has happened here is that a land development that was owned by one part of Government is now owned by another arm of Government. A pure re-badging exercise.

“The development at Unitec has already been factored into the plans and predictions for housing development in Auckland.

“All that seems to have happened here is that Mr Twyford wants to use taxpayers’ money to subsidise the building and selling of homes that were going to happen anyway. . . 

Involving the government is likely to add to costs and delays.

It would be far better to leave building to the private sector rather than tying up taxpayers’ money with all the complications that brings.

Then there’s the cost which Corin  Dann raised on Q&A:

PHIL: So, you’re talking medium-density, as pretty much all the KiwiBuild homes in Auckland are going to be medium-density, apartments, flats and town houses, terraces. 500,000 to 600,000 is the kind of range we’re talking about.

CORIN​: So somebody is going to get a $600,000- what, two-bedroom, three-bedroom house in Mt Albert?

PHIL​: Yes. Two to three, yes.

CORIN​: That’s really cheap.

PHIL​: Sure.

Cheap? Since when has $600,000 for a two to three bedroom house been cheap?

Since demand for houses outstripped supply so badly and as Act MP David Seymour pointed out the government isn’t addressing the root cause of that problem:

. . . The Government’s own officials have said that, in Auckland, land use regulation could be responsible for up to 56 per cent, or $530,000, of the cost of an average home.

“ACT has revealed from Written Parliamentary Questions that Cabinet hasn’t even decided whether to consider reviewing the Resource Management Act – rules that determine what can be built where – after 150 days in the Beehive.

“New Zealand does not have a free market in housing. It is a market created and manipulated by government.

“The Government – whether central or local – controls the Resource Management Act, zoning, consents and other factors that influence the market.

“Our housing market isn’t a case of market failure but an example of regulatory failure. New Zealand has planning rules which mean that the market is not able to increase the supply of houses in response to increases in demand. . . 

The RMA and zoning are a big part of the housing cost problem.

So too are building regulations.

Economies of scale with bigger populations don’t explain all of the difference in the cost of building a house in Australia and New Zealand.

If the government is serious about affordable housing it needs to look at building regulations which require more expensive materials on this side of the Tasman than the other.


Popular yes but will it work?

01/11/2017

Labour will make residential property ‘sensitive’ which will be a de facto ban on foreign buyers.

Anyone who was not either a citizen or resident of New Zealand would not be allowed to purchase existing homes.

“The Government will introduce an amendment to the Overseas Investment Act to classify housing as ‘sensitive’ and introduce a residency test,” Ardern said in her first post-cabinet press conference. . .

Ardern expected the legislation would be introduced by Christmas and passed in the new year.

“This does not impact our Korean FTA, nor will it impact the TPP – if we pass it before it takes effect,” Trade Minister David Parker said.

“Our underlying ethos here has been that if you have the right to live here long-term you have the right to buy here.”

The ban needed to passed fast because if New Zealand signed up to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) without passing the legislation the TPP provisions allowing foreign investment would then effect other trade agreements under “most favoured nation clauses,” effectively taking away the right to do this for good, Parker said. . .

National’s Finance spokesman Steven Joyce describes the proposal as half-cooked:

The first and strangest thing about Labour’s announcement is that it isn’t an actual ban. Putting houses through a sensitive land purchase criteria is definitely bureaucratic but does not constitute a ban on such sales,” Mr Joyce says.

“There are also all sorts of definitional questions. Is an apartment on the fourth floor of a building ‘sensitive land’? Is a two hectare property with two houses on it that’s being sold for development able to be sold to an international investor?

“This proposal would also be a massive compliance cost for house buyers of all types. For example, will somebody with a foreign sounding name have to prove their citizenship to the real estate agent?

“The whole announcement was very strange,” Mr Joyce says. “There has been no paperwork released and the Prime Minister indicated many of the detailed decisions remain to be made.

“This smacks very much as a ‘bright idea’ with absolutely no detail or evidence base behind it. The Prime Minister even spoke as if the Auckland property market was still rapidly appreciating whereas in actual fact it’s been flat to falling for the last year.

“Finally, if the idea gets over all the hurdles, would it actually work in terms of satisfying the concerns of our trading partners? It appears on the face of it that it would treat investors from other countries less favourably than New Zealand investors.

“This is a policy that’s designed to solve a political problem. Evidence in both Australia and here in New Zealand is that overseas buyers don’t have a significant impact on the housing market.”

Eric Crampton writes on the issue at Offsetting Behaviour and asks whether those on work-to-residence visas will be able to buy houses under this policy.

Even if they can, migrants on work visas will be caught by the ban. That will be many of the skilled people we need for jobs that we can’t find New Zealanders willing and able to do.

Liam Hehir also questions whether the proposal would be effective:

. . . Figures released earlier this year showed that home buyers without citizenship or residency accounted for about two percent of transferees. So while it might be effective as a ban, I wouldn’t be holding my breath about it doing much more than the scratching of a populist itch.

This will be popular but will it achieve its aim of making it easier for New Zealanders to buy houses?

Popular policy isn’t always good policy and only time will tell if this will help make housing more affordable without compromising any free trade agreements and deterring skilled migrants from coming here.


$un$hine has a value

12/07/2017

It comes as no surprise to me that sunshine has a value:

It is a truth commonly acknowledged that a house that gets more exposure to sunlight is more attractive, especially in ‘temperate’ climates like New Zealand’s. Until now, however, the value of that sunshine has not been calculated.

A study released today by Motu Economic and Public Policy Research Trust is the first research anywhere in the world to specifically evaluate the value buyers place on the sunshine hours received by different property.

“We found that each additional hour of direct sunlight exposure for a house per day, on average across the year, adds 2.4% to a dwelling’s market value,” said Arthur Grimes, Senior Fellow at Motu and co-author of the study.

“We know that sun is important when choosing a house. At present the impact of a building that is designed in a way that will shade its neighbour is controlled by often inflexible regulations that specify building parameters,” said Dr Grimes.

“This research is designed to put a value on sunlight, so that the change can be priced, potentially enabling compensation for affected owners and better valuation of development sites.”

The research looked at houses sold in in Wellington between 2008 and 2014. Wellington was chosen as the city is small and its local economy and housing market were stable over the study period.

“Perhaps the most important attribute of Wellington for our analysis, however, is its geographical topography and how it has intensified. It is not difficult to find houses that, while located in the same neighbourhood, have very different exposure to direct sunlight due to the effects of hills, valleys and nearby buildings,” said Dr Grimes.

 The research used REINZ data and allowed for number of bedrooms, total floor area, the decade when the house was built, access to off-street parking and the date of sale. The researchers then used fine-resolution topographical models from Wellington City Council to determine how much sun a given property received throughout each day of the year, assuming a clear sky.

“For places other than Wellington, the value of sunshine hours may be higher or lower depending on factors such as climate, topography, city size and incomes. Nevertheless, our approach can be replicated in studies for other cities to help price the value of sunlight in those settings,” said Dr Grimes.

Example: Developers are considering building a new multi-storey development that will block three hours of direct sunlight exposure per day (on average across the year) to two houses, each valued at $1 million. The resulting loss in value to the house owners is in the order of $144,000 ($1,000,000 x 2.4% x 3 x 2). Instead of regulating building heights or the site envelope for the new development, the developer could be required to reimburse each house owner $72,000. In return, the developer would be otherwise unrestricted (for sunlight purposes) in the nature of development. If the development cannot bear the $144,000 then the efficient outcome is that the development does not proceed. Conversely, if the development can bear that sum, then the socially optimal outcome is for the development to occur and, from an equity perspective, the neighbours are compensated for their loss of sunlight exposure.

I don’t think anyone could afford to pay enough for me to agree to losing some sunshine.

I was a tomato in a former life. I love the warmth and light and nothing beats the natural sort from the sun.

If I could, I’d pay more for a house with all day sun and pay to protect it.

A sunnier house costs less to heat but it’s not just the financial benefit.

A warmer house is healthier.

Where I live, it’s more important to be warm in winter than cool in summer and there’s a psychological boost from the sun.

Sunshine definitely has a value, but for me it’s a long way above a dollar one.

 


Million $ madness

08/09/2016

Friends took us to an open home on Waiheke Island.

When they told us the price it was expected to sell for my farmer said,”How many stock units could you run on it?”

At the time we were buying a few hundred acres on our farm boundary for less than that house on a quarter acre section.

That was a few years ago. It seemed mad then and it’s got worse.

The average Auckland house now costs $1 million the price of the average house in Queenstown isn’t far behind and the rush to buy is spreading.

I walked past a real estate agent in Oamaru on Tuesday. Three quarters of the posters had  sold stickers across them. Of those still on the market, one house was had an asking price of $200 and something thousand, a couple were selling for $300 and something thousand and the rest were $400,000 plus.

Houses aren’t assets for most people. Unlike productive land they usually cost more than the owners can make from them.

Even if the value of properties is increasing, the owner only realises the gain when they sell and if they are able to buy somewhere else to live which costs less.

So why do we have this million dollar madness?

Demand has outpaced supply.

Solving that requires reducing demand and/or increasing supply.

Capital Gains Taxes haven’t stopped steep price rises elsewhere and Eric Crampton cautions that it’s too early to tell if Vancouver’s tax on foreign buyers has worked and anyone telling you otherwise is trying to sell you something.

If buying a house for eye-popping sums, is silly, what about the $1.35m paid for Colin McCahon’s painting The Canoe Tainui?

The artwork was owned by the late Tim and Sherrah Francis, and was on the market for the first time in 50 years as part of a sale of their extensive private collection last night.

They bought the painting in 1969 for $500 and took it with them on their diplomatic postings around the world. . . 

Paying so much for it now might look like million dollar madness.

But only time will tell if it’s a good investment and that might not be what motivated the buyer anyway. Not everyone who can afford fine art is looking to make money from it, sometimes the beauty of the buy is enough in the eye of the purchaser.

 

 

 

 


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