Housing minister disputes panel's affordability views

Wellington council to vote on district plan in March

Housing minister disputes panel's affordability views

Housing Minister Chris Bishop (pictured above) has highlighted a significant disagreement with the independent hearings panel on Wellington’s new District Plan, particularly on the matter of housing affordability.

Bishop stressed the critical importance of zoning and land supply in both urban centres and city outskirts as pivotal to addressing housing affordability.

“The evidence is extremely clear that zoning and land supply, both inside our cities and at the edges of our cities, matters a great deal to housing affordability. And those who claim that zoning doesn’t matter are wrong,” he told The Spinoff.

This stance comes in direct contradiction to the panel’s scepticism regarding the impact of upzoning on improving housing supply and affordability.

Bishop refrained from directly mentioning the panel.

Panel’s findings challenged

The panel, drawing on the analysis of Australia-based economist Tim Helm, concluded that upzoning to allow more housing does not necessarily translate to increased supply or affordability.

This viewpoint has faced criticism from mainstream economists and contradicts Bishop’s assertion that zoning matters a great deal to housing affordability.

Future plans and government stance

Bishop announced his office is closely reviewing the panel’s reports and will make a forthcoming statement on Wellington’s District Plan. He stressed the need for local councils to view housing as beneficial, not burdensome.

“It’s really important that we incentivise councils to see housing not as something that’s bad, or a burden on them, but that councils see housing as a good thing, because abundant housing lowers the cost of living, improves productivity, and very importantly, reduces the fiscal costs to the Crown,” Bishop said. 

“As a government, we spend over $5 billion per year on housing subsidies across emergency housing, accommodation supplements and income-related rental subsidies. Every dollar that is spent on housing subsidies is a dollar that can’t be spent on the police, the health system, or worthwhile public goods that the government should be spending money on. So, sorting out our housing crisis is extremely important.”

Support for density and RMA reforms

Kieran McAnulty, Labour’s housing spokesperson, echoed the call for more intensified housing in cities.

When queried on whether the government should step in if Wellington fails to facilitate sufficient housing, McAnulty said, “We’ve got to look at that.”

“But we also don’t want to trample on local government processes either and I’ve got a lot of faith in local government,” he said. “I think councils around the pump in general do need help from central government, and I don’t think they’re getting it.”

McAnulty also lamented the government's decision to scrap Resource Management Act reforms, which he believes could have facilitated housing growth.

Council’s crucial vote

Wellington City Council is set to make a decisive vote on the District Plan on March 14. They will decide whether to accept the independent hearings panel’s recommendations or propose amendments, which would require approval from Environment Minister Penny Simmonds, with Bishop also playing a significant role in the process, The Spinoff reported.

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