Politics

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on housing plans and new US President Joe Biden’s inauguration

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the government is firmly focused on the economic rebuild, and addressing the housing shortage and affordability.

Speaking to reporters in Nelson about this morning’s announcement of the details of a public housing build, Ardern said the current pace of housing prices was unsustainable.

The problem included low supply, low interest rates and the interface with local councils, as well as the cost of building supplies.

The goverment would tackle planning laws, try to tilt the market to first home buyers and boost the supply of all kinds of housing from public to affordable housing.

By late February she said the government would have considered advice from the Reserve Bank and Treasury to try to take some heat out of the market.
Changes to planning laws would also be addressed early this year. By July the national policy statement on urban planning would also kick in, to try to open up land.

Ardern said the decisions on the economy had been the right ones during Covid-19. “But we can’t stand by while house prices increase at the unsustainable rates of 2020.”

Housing Minister Megan Woods said since November 2017 the Government had delivered 4759 new built state houses.

She said the public housing plan released today would build on that.

She said there were areas where the need was greater because of population growth outstripping the provision of housing. “This doesn’t mean other areas will miss out.”

“Investment in public housing creates enormous dividends in health and social outcomes.”

Ardern said although the plans for 8000 new houses had already been announced in May, she believed it wzs significant. “We are and have been playing catchup. We came in last terms having had the previous Government selling house stock. We are working at a cracking pace on public housing.”

Ardern is also expected to discuss the US inauguration as well during the press conference.

Ardern earlier today described the new US President Joe Biden as a “good friend of New Zealand” after his visit here in 2016.

“Under his presidency the strong and close relationship that New Zealand enjoys with the United States will continue to develop and flourish,” she said.

Labour’s caucus is on its annual retreat – a day of workshops for MPs as they prepare for the year ahead.

It’s usually held at the Brackenridge retreat in Martinborough, but Labour’s caucus is too big for it to be held there.

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The day started with Ardern addressing her MPs and dubbing 2021 “the year of the vaccine”.

“Our job,” she told MPs and ministers in the room, “is to get us through this year and to get us through the worst health and economic crisis the world has seen in our lifetime.”

This is her government’s “top priority”, she said.

Ardern reflected on 2020 – a year she had previously labelled as “horrendous” – but was mostly forward-looking.

“Our goal has to be to get the management of Covid-19 to a similar place as we do seasonally with the flu.

“It won’t be a disease that we see simply disappear after one round of vaccinations across the population.”

Ardern is expected to expand on this when she talks to press this afternoon.

She is also expected to offer her congratulations to new US President Joe Biden.

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