Local Body Elections: Wellington mayoral candidates on housing

Wellington candidates who responded

It’s that time of the electoral cycle where you get a big fat envelope in the mail, with short blurbs about hundreds of people trying to win your vote for everything from the Mayoral office to the local licensing trust.

Who on earth should you vote for? We decided to help you make an informed decision – at least, in an area we are quite passionate about.

We asked Wellington’s mayoral candidates for their thoughts on a wide variety of local housing issues; our sincere thanks to those who replied. Should the others get in touch we’ll update this post accordingly.

It makes for a rather long blog, but in the interests of accuracy we’ve presented all answers in unabridged form. Enjoy, and hopefully this will help you in your decision-making. Make sure you vote!

 

Do you see house prices and affordability as issues in Wellington? If so, how do you propose to address these if elected?

CELIA WADE-BROWN:

Yes – affordability is an issue in the capital. Our District Plan allows for a variety of housing, including denser living near to facilities and public transport. There is Council land that can be used for exemplar housing.

Housing NZ and WCC can increase the stock and quality of housing and Urban Regeneration can encourage multiple-ownership sites in the city and suburban centres to provide more quality medium-density housing and apartments. Our development contributions policy needs a revamp to encourage more building while ensuring it’s in places that already have good storm-water, sewage, transport and community facilities.

Affordability is also about the cost of power and transport. I’ve supported the EnergySaver and WarmUp NZ schemes to insulate both rental and owner-occupied homes.

My full housing policy is at http://www.celiaformayor.org.nz/housing_policy.

JACK YAN:

I do, and I support Hayley Robinson’s Hundred Homes Strategy. If we’re going to borrow against council assets, we should do so to help people. This programme sees $30 million committed to building, and creating infrastructure for, 100 homes, which would be sold to pre-screened purchasers, who would also be the occupiers. The price is in the $200,000–$400,000 range, and the council would make a modest profit on the properties.

ROB GOULDEN:

Yes I think the housing market is over inflated and affordability is an issue. I’ll make sure there is clean affordable safe housing for those who need it.

 

Are you concerned about how the Reserve Bank’s new loan to value ratio restrictions might affect first home buyers in Wellington?

CELIA WADE-BROWN:

Yes, I think this will make it hard for people to start on the home ownership path. My very first house, when I was 21, and starting my career with IBM, was bought with a 5% deposit loaned from my parents and a 95% mortgage.

As long as people can afford the repayments, central government should not have intervened. Young people with student loans are particularly disadvantaged.

JACK YAN:

Yes, and it is a reflection of the flat economy we have: our GDP growth has been beneath the national average since 2001. It’s why I’ve developed a set plan on how to build our economy, by focusing on the high-growth firms using academically rigorous criteria developed by Victoria University of Wellington.

We get this right, and we won’t be in a poorer position versus Auckland and Christchurch.

ROB GOULDEN:

Buying a home is almost beyond the reach of many first home buyers and the affect of the Reserve Bank Policy should hopefully constrain the demand.

 

Does the Council have a role to play in providing housing for those who can’t afford to buy?

CELIA WADE-BROWN:

Yes, we must keep the numbers of beds in social housing. The twenty-year Housing Upgrade programme to strengthen, insulate and renovate places like Central Park Flats and Newtown Park has also made their neighbourhood more attractive. Vulnerable people need some support.

Council also supports ending homelessness by working with agencies like Women’s Refuge, the Night Shelter and DCM. That’s good for the people concerned and for the Wellington public.

Now WCC must work with Housing NZ to improve the areas of sub-standard housing and enable Housing Trusts to increase their stock.

Finally, rent-to-buy apartments are a new idea here but would enable people to get the first step onto the property ladder. I intend that WCC should enter into a partnership to see the first exemplar built. 

JACK YAN:

I believe it does, and we need to continue our social housing.

ROB GOULDEN:

Yes. The government has invested $230 million into WCC housing therefore increasing the value of the assets. I don’t have an issue with providing low cost accommodation for our poorest and weakest.

 

Should Wellington houses be subject to a ‘warrant of fitness’? How would you see this working (or not working)?

 CELIA WADE-BROWN:

Yes, higher standards should be introduced so rental housing meets WHO basic standards. NZ has too much low quality cold damp housing. Landlords can access subsidies for insulation and the cost is small over the lifetime of a rental property. Poor housing reduces productivity, increases health costs especially for children and the elderly.

Dunedin City Council has drafted up a local bill and would then set requirements in consultation with EECA and others. I’d take the same approach.

JACK YAN:

Yes, and this process should be as paperless as possible, to ensure that it’s efficient. To my mind, the WOF is a codification of what tenants may reasonably expect when renting and brings together existing requirements under the Health Act, Building Act and Residential Tenancies Act. Most responsible landlords would not find the WOF burdensome.

ROB GOULDEN:

This is a good idea and would ensure that people are in safe, warm dry homes. That makes for a healthy population and less drain on the community with health spending and other issues.

 

Do you think the Council has over-regulated the building of new houses? 

CELIA WADE-BROWN:

We’ve already agreed areas for denser living from Johnsonville to Kilbirnie plus there’s plenty of greenfield land in Newlands and Churton Park areas, so we don’t have Auckland’s problem of having to hurry through its Unitary Plan.

I do support more designs being accredited for a streamlined consenting process rather than every new house being a bespoke design.

Wellington needs a mix of standalone, terraced and apartment housing. Urban regeneration of under-utilised land in multiple ownership is an important next step.

We need to ensure there’s a culture of “how can we help you achieve your aims while ensuring neighbours’ rights are protected” from all Council staff, including the consents area, and our new CEO is committed to achieving this.

JACK YAN:

There has been a reasonable balance to ensure that these developments occur so each neighbourhood is well serviced. However, additional engagement and dialogue are possible.

ROB GOULDEN:

In some areas that may be the case but its better to build strong, resilient homes in the long run and adds value to peoples investment.

 

There has been discussion of creating a ‘super city’ in Wellington; would you support this?

CELIA WADE-BROWN:

Simplifying Council so there’s one tier (I.e. no Regional Council) is attractive but Miramar to Masterton is too far. I support a public referendum to decide the matter.

Meanwhile we’ve made emergency management a regional organisation reporting to the local Mayors and that works well. We’ve also got Porirua, Hutt Valley and Wellington water all managed by Capacity, a Council-owned management company. Now we’re investigating shared back-office-services which have considerable potential savings.

JACK YAN:

I am in favour after John Shewan (ex-PWC) showed figures and projected figures of savings after the Auckland experience. I believe amalgamation can lead to a better use of resources, provided community boards remain funded.

I might be alone among the mayoral candidates in believing that the Wairarapa needs to be included, as any region in this country must have a primary products’ sector. As much as I advocate the new economy, it is a long-term plan, and we need to balance that with other industries.

ROB GOULDEN:

I am happy to work with the concept of a stronger more cooperative region as there are already synergies with infrastructure, water, transport and tourism A stronger region makes for a stronger Wellington. The final model is still under consultation and pending a referendum. We need to do this so we don’t become a backwater to Auckland and Christchurch.

 

Finally, is there any other reason why Wellingtonians should vote for you as Mayor?

CELIA WADE-BROWN:

Wellington is a progressive modern city and deserves a Mayor in tune with the 21st century.

My first priority is disaster resilience – strengthening buildings, infrastructure including reservoirs and tunnels and people’s knowledge of what to do.

Our arts must be supported to attract audiences, visitors and satisfy our population’s creativity. Strengthening the Town Hall will create a world class sound recording facility and an interactive film museum and expanded film school will attract more students and businesses. More NZers than ever (up 7% to 84%) think Wellington has a culturally rich and diverse arts scene.

Wellington’s economic strengths include software and IT employees love our compact city with great access to the outdoors. To be family-friendly we must continue to look after sports fields, parks and have a great mix of local and international events – from the Newtown Festival to WOW and Chinese New Year.

The promotion of Wellington to the rest of the country and internationally as a superb destination to live, work, study and visit is being ramped up. See wellingtonnz.com for the new “Today is a good day for Wellington!” campaign.

Better transport choices – car-sharing, late night buses, safer cycling and safer routes to school will make Wellingtonian even more livable city.

I welcome new ideas and new migrants.

See celiaformayor.org.nz for further information

JACK YAN:

I’ve levelled with the public ever since my manifesto was published in April, months before my opponents’. So you know you will get transparency.

That manifesto was created by talking to Wellingtonians, not just in election year, but for years. By not being a sitting councillor—in the same position as Belich, Wilde and Blumsky—there are no councillors predisposed to working against me, and I can promote that unity.

I have worked around the world and have built bridges all my life, which means I can promote Wellington to international markets and forge relationships with other cities: after all, global economic activity takes place in the top 40 cities in the world.

You can see more at backjack2013.com.

ROB GOULDEN:

Wellington needs a champion, a progressive leader, someone who can grow business and jobs, sort out the Council finances and debt currently at $343.9 million, who can help create capacity in what we do, make us more resilient as a city (first aid kit in every car, and expanding artificial turf program are but two examples).

The city needs to focus on better transport options with more choices for people, sound infrastructure such as the roading project and the Airport expansion (pending a sound Business case). Last we need to look after our environment and make our community safer in the widest sense. I am passionate about Wellington living up to its full potential as a World Class City and a place we are proud to live, work and play.

I have the skills (leadership, drive, enthusiasm and integrity), education (Masters Degree in Business Administration) and background experience (37 years of working in Police, NZ Army, United Nations, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, commercial business in security and hospitality industry and currently in the health sector, 12 years as a Councillor and Director) to make this city thrive and prosper.

I am committed to making Wellington stand out and would like the support of Wellingtonians to achieve this together.

Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, working together is success…

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