Local Body Elections: Tauranga candidates on housing

Tauranga_And_Some_Harbour_Facilites

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 Tauranga’s mayoral candidates for their views on the pressing housing issues in their city, ranging from home affordability to whether Auckland’s influence has been positive for the region. We thank them very much for their replies, and should the others get in touch we’ll update this post accordingly.

To ensure accuracy we’ve presented all answers in unabridged form. Enjoy, and hopefully this will help you in your difficult decision-making. Make sure you vote!

What do you consider is the major housing issue facing Tauranga, and how would you address this if elected?

STUART CROSBY:

The real major housing issues in Tauranga are twofold.

Firstly the current housing stock in Tauranga is not balanced in size or structure for our aging population where many will be living on their own often after the age of 50+. Therefore I would support financial incentives for one and two bedroom dwellings as well as “Life Time Design “built homes. I have, and will continue to support infill housing, intensification and Greenfield development in a balanced and sustainable way. I support the basics of our growth management strategy see www.smartgrowthbop.org.nz.

Secondly, the existing covenants’ that developers put on sections are restricting the affordability of homes in the open market place. These covenants’ prevent yard built transportable homes, smaller “Life time Design” homes and staged property development which reduces affordability.

JOHN ROBSON:

I think there is more than one housing issue facing Tauranga, but if forced to pick one, I would say it is the same issue that affects much of New Zealand – i.e. housing affordability or the difficulty of getting on the ‘housing ladder’.

And while I’d like to see this change, the truth is that there is little that can be done at a local level.

The affordability issue arises from a combination of relatively low incomes and relatively high prices – and the major determinants of both of these are policy settings at national (and for some determinants, international) government levels.

Local government politicians that claim to be able to address the issue are being at best naïve, and at worst, deliberately disingenuous.

The affordability gap cannot be closed by simply ‘cutting red tape’, or ‘removing constraints’, or ‘slashing Council staff numbers’, or ‘halving development contributions’, or any of the myriad solutions offered by the uninformed or those with a vested interest in a particular outcome.

Which is not to say that Council has no impact – just that the impact of a well-led and well-managed Council (which does not describe TCC) will not be that significant when compared to such things as interest rates, tax regulations, and employment policies.

Take the development contribution issue as an example – if TCC halved development contributions from, say, $30,000 to $15,000, this would result in a savings of circa 5% on one of Bob Clarkson’s mythical $300,000 homes – effectively reducing the required 20% deposit from $60,000 to $57,000 (in effect, an insignificant change) – and the aspiring home owner would still not get to own the house as they would be out-bid by an ‘investor’.

The best I can offer is to ensure that TCC is as well run as is possible and that it develops a culture that ensures we introduce optimal solutions in every area of its operation.  An example of a failure to do this would be the Southern Pipeline project – this is not the right solution (for many reasons, not just exorbitant cost) – and this will have an impact not just on housing affordability, but also the ongoing living costs of people making their home in Tauranga.

Sound management would reduce both capital expenditure and operational expenditure – and both would improve affordability but I believe, sadly,  the overall effect on housing affordability would be marginal.

One other thing that a good Council can and should do is lobby central government to change policy settings – and I see this as an important adjunct to the core task of ensuring Council is well run.

MICHAEL BAKER:

The major issue facing Tauranga is housing affordability. How councils can address this issue is somewhat limited but we can ensure that the consent process is efficient and that there is more than adequate consented land available for houses to be built.

We should be assisting developers to come to Tauranga (by making the process a good one) rather than believing (as some do) that developers are just ripping everyone off.

KEVIN CLOUT:

Biggest issue is the non-affordability of housing for both buyers and renters. I would review SmartGrowth to allow smaller units/section sizes where desirable, and also review the urban limit so for example Tauriko can flourish. Bob Clarkson believes he can provide land and house packages for under $300k.

 

Do you think home buyers in Tauranga are being made to suffer for high Auckland house prices?

STUART CROSBY:

Yes.

This is a double-edged sward issue. On one hand Aucklanders are cashing up and purchasing in Tauranga which is good for our internal market by creating selling opportunities for those that want to sell. On the other hand Tauranga house prices are moving up and this may in part be associated with Auckland buyers moving to Tauranga. That is simply the market place operating on a supply and demand basis.

JOHN ROBSON:

In short, yes – and not just home buyers in Tauranga, but home buyers all over the country.

I believe the LVR ‘solution’ is a worse than a bad joke – and would lobby strongly for it to be eliminated.

There are a number of other options available to address the issue but unfortunately short-term political (and possibly personal financial?) interests seem to preclude them being adopted.

MICHAEL BAKER:

You could say that Tauranga house prices are being driven by the high Auckland house prices however this is good for sellers but obviously the reverse effect for buyers. Tauranga prices have certainly not escalated like Auckland property prices have and this therefore still makes Tauranga an attractive place to come to.

KEVIN CLOUT:

High Auckland prices must impact on Tauranga – although that effect has taken a while to surface. There is not much we can do to dampen that, however if there was sufficient new industry, and affordable housing, then Tauranga is set to grow (which I believe is desirable).

 

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

STUART CROSBY:

Always being reviewed.

I support Tauranga City Council planning ahead and having a “lead supply” of zoned and serviced residential land at least up to a 5-10 horizon. I support the current development working party that the Council has with its lead staff and the development community. This has been running for five years and as a result of that relationship there are and will be more changes to the councils regulatory processes.

I also support the balance between development contributions and rates paying for infrastructure for the housing market.

JOHN ROBSON:

I am sure that there would be areas where regulation might be ‘adjusted’, but I do not feel that this is a major problem – compared with, say, the cost of under-regulation as evidenced by the ‘leaky buildings’ debacle.

It is important to get the balance right – and, therefore I would always be open to discussing any particular regulatory initiative with a view to achieving that optimal balance.

However any regulatory issue must be settled by facts and logic – not opinion and ideology – and this applies equally to the ‘right-wing developer’ and the ‘socialist planner’, to use two common caricatures.

MICHAEL BAKER:

No I do not think that the Council has over-regulated as we must keep in mind that we do not want repeats of issues such as leaky buildings and there have to be rules and conditions in place to protect the owners of new buildings.

KEVIN CLOUT:

I am vehemently opposed to needless bureaucracy and red tape! Why does TCC have to charge such exorbitant section and building impact fees/resource consents etc? I will definitely be working to make TCC a lead council in implementing the central government’s RMA and local government reforms.

 

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

STUART CROSBY:

Yes, There are two distinct levels of affordability housing. The first is what can be achieved in the open market place and the second is what can be achieved by intervening in the open market place.

I support council having a role by creating housing options in its regulatory and financial contribution processes in the open market place to assist in housing affordability.

I support creating the opportunity of a other parties developing green or brown field sites and building houses that are subsidized both physically and financially and that that lower completed house cost is locked in for a 5-10 period to maintain its sustainable affordability.

This is a subject that I have a lot of experience in both in the private and public sector.

JOHN ROBSON:

Currently the Council has no real role in the direct provision of housing – and given the poor quality of most Councillors, I am glad.

In New Zealand, unlike many countries, housing (and education and health) are largely the province of central government – unsurprising perhaps when one considers that the entire country is smaller than most of the world’s major cities.

I believe that most Councils lack the scale (and depth of talent) required to operate effectively in the housing sector – and would prefer to see them facilitate the provision of solutions to social issues through central government agencies.

MICHAEL BAKER:

A good question, but not one that I believe the council can become overly involved but then we could agree to greater housing densities or smaller homes, but are these really the type of homes that people actually want – as in the end buyers lead the market.

KEVIN CLOUT:

I am not in favour of TCC owning property for which they make a below market return. This effectively means that ratepayers are subsidising renters.

 

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

STUART CROSBY:

I believe in providing for today and planning for tomorrow. Tauranga population has doubled since 1989 and will continue to grow.

I believe in the Live, work, play balance in investment. It is critical to develop a strong economy not just based on growth but an export led market place. My personal vision for Tauranga is to create a “city for all ages “where our elderly will feel safe and our young can see a future in Tauranga.

JOHN ROBSON:

Rather than ‘pitch’ here, I would ask that voters spend some time really researching their options – after all, one term of a Mayor costs nearly as much as the average Tauranga house.  Voters need to get beneath the slogans and rhetoric that characterises most candidates’ campaigns.

I genuinely believe that this would result in a simple choice between the current Mayor’s decade of failure and me.

For those wanting to understand my positions on topics other than those addressed by your questions, they are welcome to go to my website (www.jr4tcc.net), e-mail me (john@clearthink.net), or call or text me, my number is 021 443 703.

MICHAEL BAKER:

If the residents of Tauranga want MORE OF THE SAME just vote for the people that are already there but if the residents of Tauranga want a new future, new vision and different ways of things being done VOTE FOR CHANGE.

In the end we end up with exactly the council that we vote in so get your vote in.

KEVIN CLOUT:

As for all other reasons for voting for me please check out either my personal website www.kelvinclout.co.nz or http://www.vote.co.nz/2013/candidates/kelvin-clout-10929.

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