Expert Panel Discussion: Housing Affordability…does anyone want to solve it?



14 August 2019


Rydges Auckland
59 Federal Street,
Cnr Kingston Street
Auckland – CBD

Event Details

The vision of the Property Foundation is to connect Academia, the Property Industry, and Society. The Foundation’s debate on housing affordability (‘Housing affordability – does anyone want to solve it?’) is a positive step towards this vision. The housing affordability debate brought together public and private sector senior leaders across the industry to debate the issue and discuss the potential solutions.

If the measure of success in relation to discourse on a topic is the sharing perspectives and reaching a consensus, then this was a very successful event. Although each stakeholder group brought to the table their own perspective, it became clear as the evening progressed that there were clear themes upon which all could agree.

The panel agreed that there appears to be a public perception of a need to find a ‘silver bullet’ solution, with many commentators advocating their preferred solution over others. However, it is apparent from this debate that the solution is likely to involve regulators, funders, consumers and wider society and that the discourse must turn away from binary single-solution debates to the development of shared solutions over the longer term.

Property Council Chief Executive Leonie Freeman captured the sentiment of the debate with her reference to the need for a ‘collective impact’ approach to housing, in the manner which had delivered housing solutions overseas and locally, and with homelessness in New Zealand.

The Minister of Housing Hon Dr Megan Woods, a historian by background, noted that in New Zealand’s post war period and into the 1960s when major housing supply initiatives we led by government, these were not Ministry of Works delivered projects, but were achieved through private sector group builders.

The panel agreed that we need to see this as a medium to long term issue, one that spans political and economic cycles and even the tenure of decision makers within those entities that are critical to delivery. Professor Leishman noted that it has taken some time for this issue to develop and that a solution that does not require corrections in house prices will require significant time periods to remedy. Minister Woods punctuated this point with the suggestion that the housing issues goes well beyond the three year political cycle and should be treated in a multi-partisan approach in the manner of other wider societal issues we have faced such as nuclear disarmament and the environment.

Bindi Norwell, CEO of REINZ, outlined how her industry has seen a shift in needs, the ‘changing psychology of housing’ in New Zealand, reflecting of a global shift in preferences. She noted that we have gone from traditional detached housing to apartments, co-living and rental tenure, reflecting demographic and preferential change. Norwell suggested that we consider what it is that we want from our housing stock collectively as a country. Norwell noted that to respond to this change will require data-driven innovation, and that this innovation will need to be supported across the sector, for example rent-to-buy, fractional ownership, and recent loans targeted at prefabricated housing.

The complex interaction of changing housing needs and the fabric of society was reflected on by Professor Chris Leishman of the University of Adelaide. He widened the context of the debate, while also making more poignant the need for a long term integrated solution. Professor Leishman raised the role of housing within society, our values, social justice, social cohesion and the impact of poorly planned housing growth on congestion, workforce mobility and how this can stifle growth for businesses. This point was further made by Leonie Freeman, who noted that as we intensify and have more people living in less space, we need to ensure that we retain good communities.

Stephen Selwood, CEO of Infrastructure NZ and Peter Cooney of CBC Builders both raised the need to ensure that foundational capability and capacity constraints are resolved, such as the need for scale, material supply chains, skilled labour, land and infrastructure. None of these can be remedied overnight nor easily mandated by government. This capacity and capability building will require the streamlining of prescriptive regulation. It was discussed that there was a need for regulators to provide the frameworks that allow industry to innovate and deliver on scale, reiterated by John Dunshea of Auckland Council in relation to better enabling innovation under the Resource Management Act. Selwood and Cooney suggested that to build capacity will also require a signalling to industry of the medium to long term intent, enabling them to prudently invest in order to meet this demand.

Perhaps the most surprising outcome of the event was how it was framed as a debate, proceeded as a healthy discourse, and concluded with strong commonality. These common themes across the panel were: the need for a shared approach to developing and delivering the solution; that the solution will be integrated and long-term; and that innovation will be required to respond to changing needs.

It appears from this event that the key stakeholders are unified on what is required, so where to from here? Perhaps we turn a collective vision into a blueprint by continuing the discourse:

What are the innovative property and tenure solutions for the changing demographic?
What are the structures (governance, funding, regulatory) that will enable an integrated approach to be delivered over the long term?

Event Resources

The panel discussion was facilitated by Richard Chung, trustee of The Property Foundation.