National’s Housing spokesperson Nicola Willis (supplied)
National’s Housing spokesperson Nicola Willis (supplied)

Nicola Willis: Labour is fudging its state housing numbers

Opinion 29/07/2021

OPINION: New Zealand is in the midst of a serious housing crisis. It’s not just first-home buyers struggling to get a foot on the ladder, but even those renting are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet.

Labour campaigned for two years on policies it claimed would build houses, but instead Kiwis are spending longer and longer in motels waiting for a home, and the taxpayer footing the bill for it.

Labour’s key policy was KiwiBuild and the promise to build 100,000 homes. That has undoubtedly, undisputedly been a failure. At this point in the programme we should be at 18,000 homes built by now, but less than 10 per cent have been delivered.

To try and take away from the shambles that is KiwiBuild, the Government regularly points to how many state houses it has added. It claims to have delivered more than 7600 new state homes, towards its target of 18,000 additional homes.

With there being four times the number of vulnerable Kiwis on the state house waiting list than when National left office, these homes are desperately needed.

But fewer than half of the public houses Labour lays claim to are newly built homes. Instead the bulk are existing homes that have been bought or leased from the private market to be used as state housing.

This means the Government is directly competing with first-home buyers and renters for houses, exacerbating the underlying housing shortage. More and more New Zealanders are being squeezed out of the private rental market and out-bid by the Government because its pockets are a lot deeper.

To make matters worse, Labour has failed to reach its targets for delivering newly built state homes in each of the past two years.

This inability to deliver is not only impacting our most vulnerable New Zealanders and their families but it’s the taxpayer who ends up footing the bill for Labour’s failed housing policies.

New Zealand is now the top of the OECD for the least affordable housing. We have the worst price-to-rent ratios, price-to-income ratios, real price growth and nominal price growth.

Rents have increased by $100 a week, punishing those on low incomes and students, and most Kiwis who can’t afford to buy a house.

The Government’s surprise tax changes will likely result in rents increasing more. It is removing interest deductibility and extending the bright-line test, hitting landlords hard and pushing many out of the market altogether.

National has put forward constructive ideas to address this country’s housing shortage.

We have an Emergency Response Bill that would release more land for housing with the urgency desperately needed. It would remove the barriers to new housing supply and allow for housing intensification.

We would be partnering with community housing providers and the private sector because it’s clear the Government isn’t building the houses we need.

The inability or unwillingness of this Government to adequately address the housing crisis is unacceptable. Where is the urgency? Where is the drive?

New Zealanders deserve better than a motel room, they deserve a home.

Nicola Willis is a List MP based in Wellington, having entered Parliament in April 2018, and being reelected in October 2020. She is currently National’s spokesperson for Housing and Urban Development, RMA Reform (housing), and is National's Associate spokesperson for Economic Development. She is a member of the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee, and has previously served on the Education and Workforce Select Committee, and the Regulations Review Committee.

Prior to becoming an MP Nicola held a number of senior management roles at New Zealand dairy co-operative Fonterra. Her work at Fonterra included leadership of the business’s global trade strategy team, permanent membership of the global incident management team, operational management of Fonterra-owned farms and work on a number of major projects alongside Fonterra’s global customers, manufacturing teams and farmer shareholders. Nicola also served on the boards of Export NZ and policy think-tank the New Zealand Initiative.

Nicola was a senior advisor to Prime Minister John Key during his first term in Government, having been a member of his winning 2008 campaign team, a senior advisor during his time as Leader of the Opposition and a researcher for then opposition education spokesperson Bill English.

She has also worked in a number of small businesses including jobs selling shoes, clothes and bagels.

Nicola is a proud graduate of Victoria University of Wellington with a first-class honours degree in English literature. She was a successful university debater, captaining teams and competing around the world. She grew up in Wellington, and today she lives there with her husband Duncan and their four children aged 5, 7, 9 and 10.