New Zealand Political Leader and Smart Growth & Housing Affordability

In a speech of August 25, ACT Party leader Donald Brash (former Governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand) talks of prescriptive land use regulation and how it has damaged housing affordability in New Zealand…

It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the interaction of the RMA, the Local Government Act and local government staff all over the country has produced a major obstacle to improved living standards.

One of the ways this has happened is through the way in which this interaction has pushed the price of housing well beyond the reach of far too many New Zealanders – or more accurately, has pushed the price of residential land well beyond the reach of far too many New Zealanders.

We know, from the annual surveys undertaken by the Demographia organisation, that housing in our major cities is now among the most expensive in the world, relative to household incomes. And why? In large part because too many local governments have quite deliberately limited the supply of residential land.

Arthur Grimes, now chairman of the Reserve Bank, found that the effect of the Metropolitan Urban Limit imposed by the Auckland Regional Council had increased the price of land just inside that Limit by some 10 times compared with the price of land just outside the Limit.

This is absolutely nuts, in a situation where New Zealand is one of the most under-populated countries in the world, and where Auckland is one of the most densely populated cities in the world – in terms of people per square kilometre, Auckland is more densely populated than Vancouver, Melbourne, Portland, Adelaide, Perth or Brisbane.

I’m delighted that one of the first projects of the newly-established Productivity Commission is to look into the affordability of housing.


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