Housing ideas from Brendon Harre: Brendon is currently overseas and has written this article on some ideas on housing. Read more here
Could an Independent Housing Commissioner be the Housing Jedi Knight that New Zealand needs?
I think it could be if the independent Reserve Bank governor concept is used as a guide.
What would the policy targets be? I would suggest the following, in order of importance:
- Rents as a proportion of income falling below 30% for the lowest 20% of income earners.
- Median house prices inflate slower than median income increases.
- Housing market remains stable and does not destabilise the wider economy.
What would the tools be?
- Ability to fund an expansion of social housing placements as needed. Preferably using the Austrian social housing model because of its cost/benefit efficiency, its stability over the political cycle, and its transparency in achieving multiple goals — social, economic, environmental, architectural/construction quality.
- Ability to buy land in support of urban area spatial plans and release it at cost for urban development as deemed necessary. As a last resort, the Housing Commissioner should be able to use the power of compulsory purchase if there is evidence of land banking. For each and every instance of compulsory land purchase Cabinet level sign-off would be required.
- Ability to appoint and direct Independent RMA Hearing Panels to review planning regulations, such as occurred with Auckland’s Unitary Plan.
- How to fund this? — the Housing Commissioner uses the mana of their position to publicly request funding as required — something like the Climate Change Commissioner. Or possibly something like a 1% housing fund income tax that Austria has (see programme funding section here) for funding land purchases and capital grants for the social house build programme.
How would this work?
The housing crisis has grown for the last 30 years — it might take half that time again to resolve. Over time, the solution could look like this:
- Housing Commissioner focuses on their first goal — reducing rent as a proportion of income for low-income groups.
- Housing related inequality reduces.
- The Housing Commissioner’s credibility with the public increases.
- Capital gain expectations in the housing market declines.
- There is more investment in other more productive areas of the economy.
- Labour productivity improves.
- Housing Commissioner use policy tools to work on second housing target — house prices relative to incomes.
- Incomes rise faster than house prices.
- Eventually the housing market becomes affordable — first for renters and then for first home buyers.
- Policy success — Yah!