It is easy to understand how total frustration with the failure over the past 40 years to produce a sensible housing regime, has led Housing Minister Phil Twyford to go for the radical solution – a new authority with extensive powers.
According to his statement on November 24, the new Housing and Urban Development Authority (HUDA), will be responsible for leading the Government’s large scale urban development projects and for being a world class state housing landlord…. will have wide-ranging powers to transform suburbs, cutting through roadblocks to large scale development” etc etc.
It will be able to use public works type powers. The authority will lead a range of large and small urban development projects throughout the country in partnership with local government, iwi and the private sector.
Sounds wonderful – red tape slashed, better and cheaper houses. Who can be against that? Clearly there is some support from the private and local government sector for this proposal, but is it necessary and what can we expect?
I don’t believe this is the best way to go. In effect the Government is saying we have suffered from regulatory failure going back decades. But instead of dealing with the RMA, the Local Government Act, and all the other regulations governing house building, we will simply impose on local government and communities a new very powerful house building authority. Local government will be greatly diminished by this new national authority.
Over the next 20 months we can expect local government to “nickel and dime” this proposition to retain maximum influence over the outcome, because the alternative is to passively accept the loss of enormous power over their communities. Each time this government yields to local government lobbying the less power its HUDA will have. The proposition reminds me of the National Development Act of 1979 associated with the economically irrational Think Big projects of PM Rob Muldoon. That ended badly.
In Wellington officials will be so consumed with developing the new structure there will be diminished effort going into current housing initiatives. Ministers of all governments typically underestimate the costs of bureaucratic surgery. Truly wonderful however for the consultants getting their snouts into this trough.
A simpler course would be to deal directly with the regulatory impediments to building more houses including apartments and medium density units and find a way of financing the infrastructure costs that are required. Achieve that and we should then get the efficient, large scale house builders the country needs.