New Zealand Labour Party

Andrew Little's Centenary policy speech

Tēnā koutou katoa

Can I begin by acknowledging Annette King.

Annette is an incredible Deputy Leader and a real source of counsel, wisdom and advice.

Can I also acknowledge the local MP David Cunliffe, and Phil Twyford our fantastic housing spokesperson. You’ve never seen Nick Smith look so scared as when Phil gets up to ask him a question in the house.

I see mayoral candidate Phil Goff is here today. Phil I want to say how exciting it is to think what we will achieve for Auckland with you as mayor and Labour in government.

Can I also acknowledge other caucus colleagues and I want to make special mention of a soon to be colleague, even though he can’t be here today: the next MP for Mt Roskill, Michael Wood.

I had the pleasure of attending Michael’s campaign launch last month, and he has a great team that are working hard to deliver a Labour win in Mt Roskill at the end of the year.

We’re here today to celebrate 100 years of the Labour Party.

Here to celebrate generations of men and women who have come together to make this a better country.

We’re here to celebrate Labour’s creation of the welfare state, the achievements of widespread home ownership and the creation of state housing, a free health system and a free education system.

In short, we celebrate the building of a nation.

We celebrate and we remember the image of Michael Joseph Savage carrying the very first furniture into the very first state house.

Offering hope to people that the years of depression were over and there were brighter days ahead.

We’re here to celebrate the beginning of the reconciliation between Maori and Pakeha and the restoration of the mana of the Treaty of Waitangi.

We’re celebrating the decision to make New Zealand nuclear free. We celebrate the courage shown by thousands of New Zealanders who marched against the Springbok Tour.

We’re celebrating KiwiBank. Kiwisaver. Working for Families. The Cullen Fund.

We celebrate Homosexual Law Reform and we remember the scene of the packed galleries in Parliament rising in song after we passed Marriage Equality.

These are Labour achievements.

This is the legacy of our party.

A better, stronger, prouder country.

Today, we celebrate these achievements and we look to the future.

At the heart of our political philosophy, at the heart of all of our achievements, lies a profound sense of optimism.

An enduring belief in our shared power to make a difference.

A belief in our common ability to come together to solve the great challenges of the day.

The power of humanity, acting together, for the dignity of humankind.

We believe that as strongly today as our forebears did 100 years ago.

And this approach is desperately needed in New Zealand today.

Because still, after 100 years, there is so much work left to do.

Today, we have a government that has failed to tackle the big challenges facing our country; that has failed to stand up for most New Zealanders.

After eight years, this government’s lost touch.

And nowhere, nowhere, is this government more out of touch and out of ideas than on housing.

Housing is at the core of a good life.

It provides security and stability.

It helps families put down roots in their communities and save for retirement

It is one of the most common sources of capital for people setting up their own small business.

The ambition of widespread homeownership sits at the heart of our social contract. It is at the heart of the Kiwi Dream.

The promise that if you work hard and do the right thing, you can earn a place of your own.

But under this government, all of that is slipping away.

We all know New Zealand has a housing crisis.

I know it, you know it, the Reserve Bank knows it.

Everyone in Auckland knows it.

The rest of New Zealand knows it.

The only people who don’t think New Zealand has a housing crisis all just happen to work in the Beehive.

Under National, home ownership is at its lowest level in 65 years.

Since 2008, when this government came to office, the average house price in Auckland has nearly doubled.

But over the same period, incomes have increased by only 24%. 

In the last year, house prices in Auckland have increased by $2600 a week.

Twenty six hundred dollars a week.

It’s crazy. How on earth do you save enough to keep up with that?

And look, behind all of these figures are real people who are missing out.

One of those people wrote to me recently, a young woman named Jen, she talked about what it was like for her and her partner trying to buy their first home.

She said “I work damn hard, so does my partner, working three jobs to try and save for a home” but she says “We were told that our 550k budget was laughable and made to feel like we could never own our own home.”

People like Jen and her partner, they deserve better.

They’re young, they’re hard working, they’re ambitious.

They’re exactly the type of people this government should be standing up for, instead of shutting them out.

But instead the government is siding with the speculators, the people trying to make big money out of our housing market at the expense of families looking for homes.

The proportion of Auckland houses being bought by investors has now reached 46% – around twice the level of first home buyers.

But it isn’t just first home buyers that are hurt by this crisis.

Even those who are lucky enough, often with the help of their parents, to scrape together enough for a deposit, are hurt by this crisis.

People who know they are winners on paper, but who could never actually sell their house because they would never be able to buy another one in this market.

People who can’t realise their equity because doing so would mean having to move far away from their jobs or their kid’s schools.

People who live in mortal fear of a bump in interest rates, because they know they could never keep up with the mortgage if rates rise by even a couple of per cent.

And then there is the hard edge of the crisis.

The rising poverty and homelessness that National turns a blind eye to.

We’ve all heard the stories of Kiwi kids admitted to hospitals with respiratory illnesses because the cold damp homes they have to live in are making them sick.

We’ve all seen the awful media reports in the last few weeks about what life is like for those who can’t find any home at all.

Of the 42,000 people living in overcrowded conditions or in garages or in cars.

Of children sleeping under bushes in South Auckland.

We’ve seen the story of the 11 year old girl, whose mother has a job, but whose family spent months living in a van before they were taken in by Te Puea Marae.

She said that the hardest part is actually not being able to read in the van, because you don't have space. And there's not much light because it would waste the battery.

When did this become the New Zealand we lived in?

When did we decide we wanted to make buying your first home so difficult, or living with a mortgage so tough?

When did we decide widespread poverty and homelessness was ok?

National wants us to believe this is just the way things are, that we don’t have a choice and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Well they might have given up, but I won’t. Not now, not ever.

The truth is, this Government is nowhere when it comes to housing.

They don’t have the political will to look at real solutions, so instead we’ve seen them flail from gimmick to gimmick.

Remember the plan to pay people to move away from Auckland, just a few weeks after they said they were going to pay people to move to Auckland?

Remember the announcement about emergency housing, that turned out wasn’t going to lead to a single extra bed?

And then their big key note announcement: letting a few councils borrow a bit more money for infrastructure – and then it turned out the money wasn’t enough to cover just the cost of one big pipe in Auckland.

And you know the saddest thing about these failures? They’re just from the last few weeks – it’s been eight years of this under National.

This government has completely failed on housing.

The Prime Minister doesn’t know what to do.

Not one of the three Housing Ministers know what to do.

And let me be clear:

New Zealanders don’t have time to wait and hope National will bumble their way into a solution.

After eight years, it’s very clear.

If we want to deal with the housing crisis: that lot has to go.

We’ve got to change the government.

Because the truth is it doesn’t have to be like this.

We can fix it, and together, we will.

Today, I want to lay out Labour’s comprehensive plan to fix the housing crisis.

It’s the plan we will be taking into the next election.

It’s a plan that will restore opportunity for first home buyers, give a fair shot to the next generation and solve the homelessness problem this government has ignored.

We will attack the housing crisis from every angle, starting with the devastating lack of supply.

We’ll start by urgently building enough emergency housing to support those in need.

We’re going to fix the homelessness problem that National has ignored for far too long.

This week, I announced that Labour will urgently address the shortage of emergency housing – with $60 million to provide 1400 new beds in emergency accommodation – enough for 5100 extra people a year.

 With the existing support that will take the number of people helped each year to over 8,000.

But it isn’t just the homeless, we need to do more to ensure everyone has access to modern, warm, dry homes.

Yesterday I announced that Labour will reform housing New Zealand – so that instead of being run like a corporation making a profit off the most vulnerable, we can invest hundreds of millions of  dollars in building thousands of new, modern, high quality state houses instead.

But we won’t stop there.

The next part of Labour’s plan is one that somehow none of the Government’s three housing Ministers seem to have been able to come up with.

There aren’t enough affordable homes, so we’re going to build more.

Now, the Government’s been really struggling with this concept, so let me say it again:

When there’s a housing crisis, you need to build more bloody homes.

That is what Labour is going to do.

That’s how we’re going to fix this crisis.

The next Labour Government will build 100,000 new affordable homes to be on sold to first home buyers.

Working with the private sector and experts in fields like prefabrication, we can build standalone homes for $500,000-$600,000 in Auckland, with apartments and town houses for less than $500,000

With the average house price in Auckland now about to hit a million dollars this is a big move in the right direction. This will stabilise prices and give people a fair shot again.

Affordable housing developments like Waimahia are already able to build 3 bedroom homes for $550,000 but imagine what we could do building at scale across Auckland.

Now, these homes won’t be palaces. But they will be modern, warm, and affordable, first homes to help people get a foot on the housing ladder.

To get these houses built, we’re also going to do more to free up land for new greenfields developments.

That’s why Labour will abolish the Auckland urban growth boundary that has been driving up the price of land.

We’ll replace it with a smarter way to manage urban growth that will shut down the land bankers and speculators by cutting off their profits.

And to make sure there we can deliver these homes, we need to be growing the construction workforce.

Earlier this year, I announced our Dole for Apprenticeships policy which will take on an extra 4000 young people for jobs training in fields including building and construction. Our policy of three-years’ free post-school education and training will add thousands of skilled workers to the workforce. KiwiBuild will also provide a pipeline of future work for the building industry as the work of the Canterbury rebuild nears completion, freeing up more workers.

100,000 houses will make a real difference to Kiwi families. It will go a long way towards helping families get into their first home.

But we can go even further. The scale of the challenge demands that we must.

Today, I want to add the next part of our plan to restore the Kiwi Dream.

Just like freeing up restrictive urban growth controls, this announcement is about cutting through the barriers that stop us building homes and letting the private sector crack on with the job.

It’s simple: The country needs more houses built, it needs them urgently, and it needs them in well-designed communities with all the services and utilities people need.

Building on that scale gets complicated. With the need for infrastructure, and dealing with different land owners, it can easily get too risky for private developers.

Just getting a change to the Council plan can take several years.

This is an urgent crisis, we can’t afford delays like that. If we want to deal with the housing crisis, we’ve got to cut through these delays and get cracking on building homes fast.

Which is why today I am announcing that Labour in government will set up an Affordable Housing Authority to deliver ambitious new urban development projects, at scale and at pace.

We are going to change the face of our towns and cities, and fix this housing crisis.

Our Affordable Housing Authority will roll up its sleeves and build like we haven’t seen in this country for a long time.

It will lead and master-plan the building of new communities and the revitalisation of old ones.

It will partner with developers to deliver thousands and thousands of high-quality affordable homes, in communities Kiwis will be proud to live in.

The Authority will have a target to meet: 50% across all of the homes in its developments will have to be affordable.

Under National, that number has been as low as 5%.

The Authority will look after the Government’s urban land holdings, and will make sure there is a pipeline of land for future needs – for housing, business, schools, parks and hospitals.

At the local level it will partner with others: the local Council, iwi and private investors to form development companies which will manage the projects.

The Affordable Housing Authority will allow us to turbo charge the scale of urban development so desperately needed in Auckland.

Imagine 10 or 15 projects on the scale of a Hobsonville or a Tamaki.

There is huge potential in greenfield areas like Drury, Whenuapai, and Kumeu while within the city there are opportunities to redevelop around the city centre and in town centres like Henderson and Manukau.

And this is not just about Auckland.

All around the country there are towns and cities who want to revitalise neighbourhoods and town centres. With the Affordable Housing Authority on their side, they will be able to. The Authority will be able to lead redevelopment projects in places like South Dunedin and the East Frame in Christchurch.

The funny thing is, this is not a new idea. The First Labour Government planned and built ambitious new communities with parks, and community centres. 

As with KiwiBuild we are drawing inspiration from the greatest generation to find solutions for the 21st century.

This approach to urban development is widely used overseas, including in Australia.

And it has been endorsed by the Productivity Commission, and the leading lights in the property industry here.

This is a common-sense, achievable way to get homes build.

It’s long overdue, it’s widely supported.

And Labour will do it.

But we can’t just fix the supply issues, we have to fix the problems with demand as well.

We urgently need to clamp down on the speculators who are driving up the prices.

I have no sympathy for speculators and land bankers who are just in the market to make a quick buck. Not when families are missing out. 

So we’ll start by cracking down on the offshore speculators – the people who don’t live here, don’t want to live here, whose only interest in New Zealand is to extract profits.

We’ll ban offshore buyers from the market unless they are willing to build a new home and add to the stock.

It’s a common sense idea, supported by a big majority of New Zealanders, and it’s been staring the government in the face for years.

But there’s more we need to do.

Right now, there’s no doubt that the way our tax system is designed gives speculators enormous incentives to wreak havoc in our housing market, allowing them to reap super profits practically tax free.

The government has a piecemeal response to this – a bright line test of just two years that means as long as a speculator holds on to a property for two years and one day, they can flick it on without paying any tax on the profit.

That’s not good enough in the midst of a housing crisis.

What’s more, our rules around negative gearing encourage speculation as well.

The way this works is investors are able to write off any losses they make in property investment against the rest of their income for tax purposes.

That means other taxpayers pick up the tab – its effectively a taxpayer subsidy for speculation.

If homeowners cannot claim their mortgage payments against their taxes why should speculators?

Taken together, these rules give a boost to the speculators, and gives them an unfair advantage over first home buyers.

That’s not right, and it can’t continue.

In government, Labour will hold a comprehensive review of our tax system, to restore fairness and balance between the productive and speculative parts of our economy.

But it has become clear to me that we can’t wait.

The crisis is urgent.

That’s why today I am announcing that the Government I lead will extend the bright line test so that if you sell an investment property within five years, you’ll pay the full tax on it.

That means the short term speculators won’t be able to get away tax free anymore. It means ending the tax incentives to speculate in short term property gains at the expense of families trying to get into a home.

But we won’t stop there.

I am announcing today that Labour will begin consulting on how to end the loop hole of negative gearing.

We’ll do this in a way that’s targeted at speculators, not investors looking for a stable, long term return.

Under Labour, the market won’t be stacked in favour of speculators anymore – we’ll back families and first home buyers. We’ll back the Kiwi Dream.

These announcements make it very clear: Labour is the party of home ownership in New Zealand today.

 That’s what we stand for and that’s what my government will deliver.

For 100 years now, Labour has stood for security and opportunity for every New Zealander.

A good job. A good life for your family. Good education. Healthcare that’s there for you when you need it.

And a home you can call your own.

For generations, Labour members and supporters have made this a better, more decent, more caring country.

Today, it’s our turn to continue that mission.

Next year, New Zealanders will have a clear choice.

On the one hand a tired, out of touch government that will do nothing to solve the housing crisis.

That will deliver three more years like the last eight.

Falling home-ownership, substandard rentals.

A housing crisis with no end in sight.

Or New Zealand can choose a better way

They can choose to build affordable homes.

To cut through the red tape and get the job done.

To crack down on foreign speculators.

To bring in proper rental standards.

To stop tolerating homelessness and start giving Kiwis in need a roof over their heads.

That’s the choice in front of us next year.

And together, New Zealand, we can make the right choice.

We can choose to end the housing crisis.

We can choose to restore opportunity to our young people.

We can choose to make this a better, fairer country once again.

Together, let’s go make it happen.

Thank you.

Read Labour's full housing policy here.