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Housing Policy - Living Well

Holly Walker MP
Holly Walker MP
holly [dot] walker [at] parliament [dot] govt [dot] nz (Email)

Go to the Housing Policy Summary

Download Housing Policy as PDF

Spokesperson: Holly Walker MP

Updated 18-Nov-2013

Introduction

Safe, secure, sustainable housing is fundamental to the health and wellbeing of individuals, families and communities. The Green Party recognises housing as a basic human right. Those without a home or living in inadequate accommodation are more vulnerable and less able to participate fully in the wider community. Poor housing creates problems that adversely affect the education and health systems and the wider community How and where we build our homes - the energy efficiency of their design, the extent to which their component parts are made from recyclable non-toxic materials, proximity to transport routes and community facilities- all these factors must be considered in order to build sustainable communities. Building location, design, processes and materials all have a major impact on the environment and on our health and quality of life. We believe that all people are entitled to secure tenure of sustainable and affordable housing. Housing decisions must help strengthen communities and enhance ecological sustainability. The Green Party is committed to realising these goals.

Vision

The Greens envision a New Zealand in which:

  • Everyone is able to access good quality, affordable, secure and appropriate housing.
  • Housing is designed and built to sustainable building principles.
  • Local communities take part in decisions on the location and type of housing developments.
  • Housing policy and funding enable a diverse mix of housing in all localities.

Key Principles

  1. Housing is a social good and a basic right. This means that no one should be prevented from establishing a home because of low income and that all people should have secure tenure of appropriate and decent housing.
  2. Housing in each locality must be able to accommodate a mix of ages, cultures, impairments and incomes.
  3. Housing developments optimise land use, are located to reduce car use, and designed and built according to sustainable building principles, technologies and practices.
  4. Energy saving and resource conserving technologies and practices must be promoted for all buildings.
  5. Decisions on the overall location and design of housing developments include democratic input from communities of interest and meet the needs of the community.
  6. Iwi and hapu rights under Te Tiriti o Waitangi to develop culturally appropriate housing within a sustainability framework must be supported.

Specific Policy Points

Housing is connected to many other issues such as health, community development, education, transport, and employment; and housing policy needs to be fully integrated with policies in these areas. Green housing policies need to be read alongside our policies in these other areas as part of an overall effort to help build more sustainable and self-reliant communities.

Housing is a social good and a basic right

1. Providing secure and affordable social housing

The Green Party believes that the private marketplace cannot accommodate the housing needs of everyone. Central and local government must play leading roles in developing policies to ensure that all New Zealanders have their local housing needs met. Social housing, which includes state housing, local government housing, and community sector housing, offers the potential to provide affordable rental accommodation to large numbers of people. The current level of social housing falls far short of meeting the current need for affordable rental housing. The Green Party will:

  1. Ensure that the Housing New Zealand Corporation has resources to increase its rate of acquisition and building of state housing units to at least 3000 units a year for the next 3 years to meet current short fall in social housing.
  2. Maintain an income related rental policy of 25% of income for Housing New Zealand Corporation tenants.
  3. Undertake land banking in areas of high housing demand to provide adequate future supply for government, local government, and third sector housing.
  4. Facilitate the release of surplus local authority land in order to provide an adequate future land supply for government, local government and third sector housing.
  5. Encourage local government to build more homes, and retain the social housing stock that they currently own.
  6. Make sure new state housing is integrated sensitively within the community, near facilities and services, and that buildings are designed for flexibility of use.
  7. Ensure that new state housing is designed in accordance with the community decision-making and sustainable building practices components of this policy.
  8. Give priority for social housing to people who are living in extremely substandard or overcrowded accommodation, pregnant women, adults with dependent children or elderly family members, people recovering from mental illness, and people with physical or intellectual impairments.

2. Expanding the third sector

Community based housing can provide flexibility and diversity in housing provision and tenure. By funding a diverse mix of housing options in the public and community sectors we will better meet the needs of our diverse society. Third sector organisations are voluntary, independent, not for private profit, and act in a way that benefits the wider community and physical environment. By playing an integral part in driving community economic development, the third sector helps to build stronger communities. The Green Party will:

  1. Create an enabling legislative and regulatory environment that actively encourages third sector involvement in the provision of a diverse range of secure, decent and affordable housing, particularly in areas of high need.
  2. Provide major funding for third sector housing organisations, prioritising those which demonstrate commitment to principles of environmental and social sustainability - starting with a minimum of 1000 units a year for the next 3 years.
  3. Provide grants and facilitate loans for third sector housing.
  4. Support the establishment of community land trusts, where provision can be made for housing that is affordable and appropriate.
  5. Ensure that community based housing organisations that obtain government funding will be subject to scrutiny of their allocation criteria and procedures, housing quality, and rental and affordability policies.
  6. Remove legal and institutional barriers to the development of a range of housing tenures and styles, e.g., co-operative housing, eco-villages, self-built, sweat equity housing, shared ownership, and papakainga housing.
  7. Support the development of community design centers to provide design and engineering advice.

3. Supported housing for those in need

Our society needs safe accommodation and support for those most vulnerable members of our society who cannot support themselves. Those with mental health or substance abuse problems, victims of domestic violence, older people on fixed incomes, disabled people and the homeless, will all at times need safe places to go to and may not be in a position to pay. The Green Party will:

  1. Work with local authorities, NGOs, and community groups to improve resources for housing projects and support that meet particular needs, such as for people with mental, physical and intellectual impairments, pregnant women, adults with dependent children, elderly and/or disabled family members, people with physical or intellectual impairments and people recovering from mental illness.
  2. Work with local authorities to require financial contributions from large developments to help build affordable housing for low income households where their needs are not being met.
  3. Urgently address the current shortfall of secure, affordable and appropriate housing and support for those living with, and recovering from, mental illness and addictions.
  4. Work with local authorities to improve the co-ordination between social health and housing agencies.
  5. Introduce measures to support older people on low incomes and people with physical or intellectual impairments so that they can maintain their lifestyle in their own homes, or move into nearby housing that is more suited to their needs.

4. No one should be left homeless

Homelessness in urban, provincial and rural New Zealand is a much larger problem than is commonly acknowledged. The Green Party accepts the definition of homelessness adopted by the NZ Coalition to End Homelessness, in summary:

  1. Primary homelessness - people who sleep on the street or in parks, derelict buildings, cars or in improvised shelter.
  2. Secondary homelessness - people who move between various forms of temporary shelter - friends, family, night shelters, and emergency boarding houses
  3. Tertiary homelessness - people who live long term in accommodation that is unsuitable to their needs and without security of tenure.
  4. Marginal homelessness - people who live in housing that does not meet their physical needs, includes caravan parks, substandard and/or crowded housing.

In most cases, affected people suffer to a lesser or greater degree, disconnection from their whanau, hapu and/or iwi (social supports, friends and family). The Green Party will:

  1. Create a legally binding duty on the public sector to ensure housing needs are met, and that the Housing NZ Corporation, Local Government, and the community sector all work to develop integrated services to meet this obligation.
  2. Fund research into homelessness statistics, issues and trends, recognizing that homelessness affects a much wider population than is often assumed. (See definition above).
  3. Provide Government support for third sector organisations working with and for homeless people.
  4. Ensure that Government agencies adopt best practice in working with homeless people in New Zealand, including linking with relevant areas of policy and practice.
  5. Support allowing Work and Income New Zealand to deduct rent at source with the tenant's agreement, ( but not permit landlords to make this a condition of tenancy).

5. Housing Affordability

The Green Party believes that all people should be able to live in appropriate and sustainably built housing for a cost of no more than 25% of their income unless they freely choose otherwise. For a significant proportion of the population this is becoming very difficult, if not impossible. This is because for those who want to buy their home, relatively high interest rates, increasing property prices outstripping wage increases, and high costs for rental accommodation prevent many from accumulating an adequate deposit, let alone the payment of a mortgage. As a result, many low to middle income households can no longer afford to buy their own homes. And while none should be pressured into home ownership, homeownership should be an affordable option for those who wish to do so.

A) Managing investor demand for housing The Green Party believes that any attempt to address housing affordability must address the growing gap between incomes and house prices as well as both the demand and the supply side of housing. Demand for housing has been affected by speculative investment in the rental market, partly as a result of current distortions in the tax system. The Green Party believes that a capital gains tax on property (excluding the family home) and restrictions on the use of Loss Attributing Qualifying Companies (LAQCs) or equivalent tax deductions will help reduce distortions in the tax system, help limit speculative investment in property and reduce the existing pressure on the residential property sector. To reduce pressure on the housing investment market the Green Party will:

  1. Tighten the rules around Loss Attributing Qualifying Companies (LAQCs) and equivalent tax deductions. Any tightening of the rules will be phased in to allow existing investors time to readjust.
  2. Introduce a capital gains tax on all but the family home (see Capital Gains Tax policy for further details).
  3. Limit residential land sales to New Zealand citizens and permanent residents (refer Trade and Foreign Investment Policy for further details)

B) Making home ownership possible In order to enable households to save a deposit, obtain and service a mortgage the Green Party will:

  1. Legislate to provide for annual adjustments in the minimum wage to ensure that it equates to no less than 66% of the average wage.
  2. Introduce a Consumer Price Index-adjusted Universal Child Benefit. This non-income tested payment to the primary caregiver would be similar to the Family Benefit that was scrapped in 1991 and can be capitalised towards the child's first home.( See Children's Policy).
  3. Change income support systems so that savings towards a deposit are not treated as assets for benefit abatement.
  4. Increase the provision of low interest financing for low-income households seeking home ownership.
  5. Provide shared equity and supported savings schemes for first home and low income buyers.
  6. Support third sector housing schemes that encourage moves towards home ownership, both individual and collective.

C) Ensuring private renting is affordable The Green Party believes that renting can be a good alternative to home ownership. Renters should have security of tenure and should have access to affordable rental accommodation. The Green Party will:

  1. Provide a better framework for the development of secure and affordable long-term rental accommodation as a housing option including:
    1. Shifting the standard tenancy conditions towards more secure and predictable tenure arrangements;
    2. Providing a simple legal framework for long-term tenancies as well as short-term tenancies.
  2. Provide more government support for tenants' advocacy groups.
  3. Ensure legislation provides fairness, clear processes and equity for both tenants and landlords

6. Rural housing

People should have the right to live in their ancestral districts or in those districts where they have chosen to make their home. Rural housing remains inadequate and substandard in many parts of New Zealand, particularly in Northland, the East Coast and the Bay of Plenty. Tangata whenua are particularly disadvantaged, as multiple land ownership still presents a major barrier to home ownership. The Green Party will:

  1. Increase funding and support to repair and renovate rural housing, and when housing is assessed as 'beyond repair', provide support for the acquisition of another house in the same community, when at all possible.
  2. Put in place programmes to ensure access to basic water, sanitation and cooking requirements, wherever these are lacking, and include retrofitting for energy efficiency as part of this process.
  3. Enable hapu, iwi and pan-iwi bodies to play a key role in decision-making and facilitate the development of housing on communally owned land.
  4. Evaluate and where desirable strengthen existing Government schemes to support rural housing in areas of special need to make them more effective.

7. Recognising Te Tiriti o Waitangi

Our colonial history, including theft of land from Maori, has left Maori more likely than any other group of New Zealanders to live in poor quality or overcrowded homes, and spending proportionally more of their income on accommodation. Moreover, the Green Party recognises that under Te Tiriti o Waitangi the Crown has committed to work in partnership with Maori to uphold rangatiratanga by finding solutions to Maori housing needs. The Green Party will:

  1. Ensure that central government works with iwi, hapu and urban Maori to support the development and implementation of policies that address their needs.
  2. Support papakainga and local iwi and hapu third sector housing, and the extension of Housing New Zealand Corporation's urban renewal project, aimed at improving housing and neighbourhood quality.

8. Housing is an ongoing basic need

As housing needs change over time, it is crucial that housing policy and provision is based on the latest and best possible information. The Green Party will:

  1. Make use of existing surveys based on census information and demographic statistics to establish and maintain an overview of housing need.
  2. Carry out further research at the local and regional levels, including a national housing needs assessment for every district at least once every five years.

Houses for a sustainable future

9. Sustainable buildings

The building industry has a huge impact on the consumption of resources, energy, production, and disposal of waste (including air and water pollution). A building's design locks into place the energy and water use requirements for the building. The materials used have implications for energy use and pollution in their extraction, processing and transporting. They can also potentially create unhealthy conditions for both workers and inhabitants. The Green Party believes it is vital for the Government to play a role in setting standards, developing educational information for both industry and the general public, and promoting sustainable building through establishing incentives to encourage sustainable building in both planning and housing matters. Sustainable houses use low energy design, low energy-use waste and sewage disposal, local renewable sources of building materials and conserve common resources such as water. They can be 'low tech' self built constructions, and must make ecologically sensitive use of land. The Green Party will:

  1. Develop a sustainable building strategy, which sets standards for use of building materials. This will include: minimum requirements to be met from a mandatory life cycle analysis of design and component materials i.e. from 'cradle to grave', looking at energy use (embodied energy), pollution, waste products and other negative impacts on land and people - including initial extraction, mining and/or harvesting, through to transport costs, accessible building use, flexibility of the design, waste disposal and recycling implications.
  2. Require, as part of a National Policy Statement on Sustainable Energy, district plans to facilitate the use of solar and/or wind energy.
  3. Introduce national technical qualifications for administration of the Building Code at local level and require that NZ building inspectors are trained to this national standard to asses the use and application of new technologies.
  4. Update the Building Code for new houses to:
    1. Encourage solar design by including energy performance measures that are more easily met if the principles of passive solar design are used; and
    2. Ensure that the review of the Building Code incorporates the sustainability and energy performance standards developed by the sustainable building strategy.
  5. Ensure that all new buildings conform to sustainable building principles within 3 years.
  6. Provide education, training and promotion for sustainability in the new Building Act, including training for architects and builders, and information targeted at people buying new homes.
  7. Develop and promote educational resources about sustainable building for use within the building industry.
  8. Encourage demonstration projects in sustainable building by ensuring that that government takes a lead role in the implementation of sustainable building principles and that all new Housing New Zealand Corporation stock are built to sustainable building and design principles.
  9. Develop partnerships with mortgage providers to establish a facility for 'solar mortgages' for new houses.
  10. Support pilot projects as a first step towards factory-build mass production of high quality, low cost housing meeting high environmental standards, including within the community sector.
  11. Support and expand programmes to make existing homes more energy and water efficient including:
    1. Developing an energy-demand labeling system for houses and require houses to carry such labels if they are put up for sale.
    2. Establishing locally based advisory service to provide free or low cost audits of homes and advise on measures to improve their energy and water efficiency and incorporate sustainable options.
    3. Set targets and increase funding to:
      1. significantly accelerate the rate of domestic energy efficiency retrofits (including insulation and damp proofing of homes) and expand training schemes for auditors and installers.
      2. support grey-water recycling, and for rainwater tanks
      3. support self-contained local and neighbourhood wastewater systems.
      4. Provide for a reduction in Development Contributions when there is no additional demand placed upon local authority infrastructure by a new dwelling or minor household unit.
    4. Encourage no consent fees for sustainable adaptations such as solar heating and grey-water recycling.

10. Building for sustainable transport, healthier communities, and individual well being

How we plan and design housing developments, and where new homes are located has a major impact on future transport needs and on the well-being and maintenance of community and social infrastructure. The quality of design and maintenance of houses has direct links to the quality of our health and social life. Poor, overcrowded, and badly situated housing can also affect our employability as well as our education, physical and mental health. The Greens will:

  1. Develop a National Policy statement on housing to streamline consent processes and ensure that sustainability standards are properly incorporated in any new housing developments.
  2. Ensure the housing development and subdivision provisions of district plans minimise car use and increase potential for public transport use by facilitating housing which is in close proximity to public transport links, places of work, community, and shopping and reducing the requirements for on-site parking.
  3. Promote interaction between diverse people locally and incorporate 'routes of connectivity' (pedestrian, cycle and public transport routes) with existing community facilities via accessible pathways, pedestrian and cycle friendly roadways, and open spaces.
  4. Support mixed-use zones where small business and residential living can both be accommodated.
  5. Safeguard high quality horticultural and agricultural land, particularly that bordering urban areas, from intensive housing developments.
  6. Provide matched funding for local authorities that take active measures to support social housing or low income retrofitting programmes.
  7. Work with local authorities to develop urban density design guides for future medium-density housing to avoid both urban sprawl and overcrowding. These guides will cover areas such as acoustic and visual privacy and put in place minimum thresholds for viable green space, and require active community input and quality control.
  8. Strengthen protection for historic heritage buildings (see Arts, Culture and Heritage policy).
  9. Support the development of local design centers to provide design and engineering advice.
  10. Revise the building code so that new houses and building premises are required to be accessible by design unless specifically exempted. Nearly one in five New Zealanders has a disability and the population is ageing. Ensuring that homes are accessible to people with limited mobility may add only 15% to the costs of construction whereas 'retrofitting' and adoptions are much more expensive and inconvenient (See Disability Policy).

11. Ensuring community participation

Decisions about housing development ought to involve the meaningful participation of the local community. Community involvement can improve social cohesion, and ensure a commitment to sustainability. The Green Party will:

  1. Provide for community consultation in planning and building of new housing developments in order to have real influence over development outcomes affecting the existing and future community.
  2. Encourage the formation of regional housing forums with representatives from community based organisations, housing organisations, local government, private sector, building industry, consumer groups, and tenants' groups as a means of jointly developing, implementing and monitoring housing policy at their local level.
  3. Ensure that Housing New Zealand management structures are responsive to individual circumstances and local needs.
  4. Create community owned development banks to facilitate local housing development and purchase through innovative lending and guarantee structures. Government could assist in the provision of low cost finance.

12. Strengthening the housing workforce

There has been a general decline in building standards, with quality being sacrificed to quantity and speed. Houses need to be designed and constructed to last at least 100 years. The Green Party will:

  1. Put in place measures to increase the number and quality of trained builders and craftspeople in the building industry.
  2. Develop on the job apprenticeships and training programmes within the Housing New Zealand Corporation's major building strategy and other public building projects.
  3. Develop a cross-sector approach to encourage and support the development and use of innovative materials and techniques, with particular emphasis on revising the building consent process to enable the obtaining of building consents for innovative building techniques.
  4. Support the registration system for 'licensed building practitioners' aimed at improving the skill and professionalism of the building industry.
  5. Link the expansion of Housing New Zealand Corporation's building and acquisition programme to local employment and apprenticeship schemes.

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