Wednesday, 4 September 2019

The speech Megan Woods should give on KiwiBuild

Comrades! Our time has come to seize the means of housing production.

You can scent failure in what a comrade did before politics, and Phil Twyford ran Oxfam. Oxfam was set up so the capitalists could give crumbs to the workers if and when they felt like it. Very cosy. Twyford wouldn’t know his kulak from his gulag, and the results of his weakness are there for all to see. Collins ate him alive. Well, I’ll give her something to chew on.

I didn’t spend years as Jim Anderton’s loyal lieutenant to fall in behind the bourgeoise, so here’s what happens next.

We need to make fundamental structural change to the market until the working people can have a chance of owning a place of their own that is connected to opportunity, by which I mean education and jobs. This means analysing the problem and solving it practically.

First, let’s send the whole KiwiBuild concept, as we’ve known it so far, to Siberia. A very basic dialectic analysis of the problem would tell you it is a shortage of land. The price of the median Auckland section went up 903 per cent in 25 years. The cost of building per square metre went up 212 per cent in the same period. The consumer price index went up 60 per cent. No amount of swooning over Thomas Piketty could prepare a comrade for such brazen dominance of capital over labour.

Who paid for this windfall? The workers, of course. At the start of this period, working class households, those with the bottom 20 per cent of household incomes, paid 27 per cent of their income on housing costs. Now, they pay exactly double that at 54 per cent. If the purpose of the labour movement is to represent labour vis-à-vis capital, then we should be reducing what workers pay for the ‘privilege’ of living on land in Aotearoa.

I happen to have a PhD in the history of government home building in New Zealand. How handy. And how amazing I didn’t get this job in the first place. Government home building can work if it’s, say, 1935, there is no shortage of consented land, and infrastructure just means extending the roads. It can especially work if there’s a global financial meltdown, nobody has any credit, and the government is prepared to provide liquidity.

Unfortunately for my feeble colleagues who all bought Micky Savage tea towels, it is not 1935. There is not a crisis of liquidity. If anything, the opposite is the case. There is, very obviously, a shortage of consented land with infrastructure servicing it.

In short, there is no house a government can build on a $700,000 section that will be affordable. This is especially true at a time when the building sector is stretched to capacity for skilled labour. All KiwiBuild was doing was competing with the private sector, taking up scarce resources to build houses on scarce sections. Like I said, the guy ran Oxfam.

If KiwiBuild solved the shortage of sections, we might as well just free up sections for the entire home building sector. This might lead you to ask: Why did we need KiwiBuild? On the other hand, if KiwiBuild doesn’t solve the problem with sections, then it’s not solving the problem. Either way, it was a monumentally stupid idea.

How do we solve the real problem? Well, actually there are two problems.

One is that you can’t get consent to build much of anything. The bourgeoisie have told us that we can’t urbanise more than 0.8 per cent of New Zealand, and we’ve fallen for it. In Auckland there is land just beyond the rural urban boundary that we’re not allowed to build on even though it’s nine times cheaper. Apparently, we have to live in towers because one of the most sparsely populated countries on the planet is out of land.

Two is that, even if you were allowed to build there, the government has abrogated its duty to build infrastructure. Working for Families for households on six figures, and endless handouts for businesses and Winston’s kulak racing mates, sure. But do you think we can get a second harbour crossing in Auckland or a tunnel to Wellington Airport? Not a chance.

We can’t provide the sections working people need to build their futures without infrastructure to get to it, even if we fix the land use planning rules that force cities to build uncomfortably up.

Comrades, I’ve come to the most uncomfortable conclusion. David f***ing Seymour has been right about housing policy all along. That’s right, the ACT Party, our traitorous cousins who sold the family silverware with their ‘economics’, have got it right when it comes to housing.

Here’s what KiwiBuild will mean from now on. It will not be a government home building programme. It is, historically, not the right time and place.

1. We will tinker no longer with the Resource Management Act. We will replace it with a new doctrine that is infrastructure-driven and starts with the basis that you can build what you like so long as there are no acute effects on your immediate neighbours’ enjoyment of their property. There will be no more lawyers driving around in late model European cars with RMA in their number plates, just working people building homes for their families. See the Productivity Commission’s Better Urban Planning for more detail.

2. We will invest properly in infrastructure. We will tinker no more with niche Urban Development Authorities. Councils will be able to issue targeted rates to pay for infrastructure servicing new dwellings. Councils will receive the GST on construction activity in their jurisdiction. That will not only fund infrastructure connecting working people with opportunity but change councils’ incentives. It will make them give resource consents like parking tickets.

3. Councils will no longer be responsible for building consents. They have no idea what they’re doing. We will require the capitalists to take responsibility for their buildings, by requiring mandatory private insurance, valid for 25 years on any new build.

That’s how you get stuff built. Homes for working people that we can afford and that are connected to opportunity. Remind me to thank that yellow capitalist pig.