Bipartisan progress on housing

Published in Insights, The New Zealand Initiative’s newsletter, 22 October 2021

As American lawyer and politician Gideon J. Tucker put it, “No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the Legislature is in session.”

Tucker’s law generally holds true, but there are rare exceptions.

In mid-December Parliament will strengthen property rights for landowners and allow them greater freedom to build.

In a historic move, Labour and National have come together to remove planning constraints for inner-city plots in our urban centres. On most sites, up to three homes of up to three storeys will be allowed without resource consent.

This is great news for landowners. Rather than having to spend time and money navigating regulatory hurdles, they can focus on developing their property.

It is equally great news for anyone wishing to buy or rent a home. With fewer planning restrictions, more houses will be built. Over the next two decades, this could mean the construction of more than 100,000 homes above current expectations.

Finally, it is excellent news for anyone despairing about the state of politics. It does not happen every day that the Labour Government and the National Opposition work jointly to fix a problem they both created. So when it happens, it deserves praise.

Even though we have not seen the details of the bill yet, from what we have heard, this bipartisan housing reform is a big step forward.

I applaud the politicians who made this decision. Congratulations to Jacinda Ardern for accepting the cooperation offer from Opposition Leader Judith Collins. And thanks are due to Ministers David Parker, Megan Woods and (behind the scenes) Phil Twyford, and to National’s housing spokesperson Nicola Willis.

Having made progress on planning reform, the two parties now need to tackle other issues.

The Labour Party and the National Party both understand that new houses require roads and pipes. Both have taken steps to better finance such infrastructure investments, but much more must be done.

In the same spirit that led to the breakthrough on planning reform, maybe politicians of both major parties can develop incentives for councils to support development.

Following this week’s joint announcement, such a bipartisan approach appears possible. And sometimes, when the Legislature is in session, good policy may indeed be the outcome.

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