Is Labour's housing plan a 'Bob the Build Up' plan for Māori?

By Marena Mane

Labour's housing plan is a "big grand statement" that might not be executed because of how the policy would flow into budget allocations and subsequently into the building industry.

That's according to Dr Matthew Roskruge, co-director of Te Aurangahau (a Massey University specialist centre researching Māori and business connections) and associate professor of economics.

“It’s easy to say 'we're going to build these fantastic assets for people'. It's really hard in the current environment, harder still to get the people, get the regulation in place and get the construction underway.”

Yesterday, the government unveiled its long-term vision for housing and urban development, which includes a national Māori housing strategy.

The government policy statement on housing and urban development, provides a strategy to guarantee that more affordable houses are created and that they fit the community's requirements.

This is anticipated to allow whānau to have stable, healthy, affordable houses with secure tenure, as well as re-establish housing's core function as a home rather than merely a financial asset.

Roskruge however, believes that the plan won’t have an immediate impact on the overheated urban housing market but more so on people wanting to provide housing, depending on how they interpret the plan.

“Probably the biggest impact we'll see is I think we're going to get housing that is more appropriate and better suited to the people who need it. So I think we're going to get better homes maybe but not lower prices.”

Māori in this plan?

What Roskruge likes about this policy statement is that it focuses on what Maori need in terms of a safe, healthy, and secure home, as well as more consideration of what Māori want in their housing.

“I think what really comes through is their focus on partnerships in construction and delivery of housing. There's a lot of talk about partnerships with Māori, which is great,” he says. 

The plan, according to Roskruge, heavily emphasises Māori having a voice, which he feels the government is attempting to address. He does think, however, that the government's plan should be read in conjunction with another report, Maihi Ka Ora, National Māori Housing Strategy, which seeks Māori partners in decision-making, building, and maintenance, as well as users of these houses.

“I think it's a fantastic time for the Māori economy to be looking at, and training more of our people in construction in that industry but also starting businesses, getting geared up to supply.”

Supply issue

According to Roskruge, Aotearoa has a severe construction supply shortage, with major retailers such as Mitre 10 and Bunnings stocking almost nothing.

“It's only getting worse and that's not going to make delivering on an ambition of lots of healthy well-constructed homes in a hurry, easier. It only makes things difficult.”