Brad Olsen spoke to Bernadine Oliver-Kerby. Credits: Video – AM; Image – Getty Images/File
A prominent economist believes backing off on building is a mistake and is slamming the Christchurch City Council for voting to reject the Government’s housing density standards.
The council recently pushed back on the cross-party law that allows up to three homes of three storeys each on most sections across New Zealand’s major cities.
But Infometrics principal economist Brad Olsen said New Zealand was at risk of taking its foot off the accelerator when it came to solving the country’s housing challenges.
Christchurch’s move set a worrying precedent, he told AM Early on Wednesday.
"Increasingly, what we have is this feeling that we must protect all that is old by virtue of it being old.
"I’m certainly not opposed to keeping some of those buildings that are worthwhile but I think, again, what we are seeing at the moment is, there are increasing conversations about, ‘How do we keep things as they currently are not allowing for that future development?’ This means if you currently do have a house, that’s fantastic – if you don’t have a house, well, you don’t have many great options.
"There is a worry there when we know, again, over time housing has become more unaffordable for young Kiwis," Olsen said.
Now was the time for central and local Governments to hold their nerves and put New Zealand’s housing sector in a better position, he said.
Rejecting housing intensification was effectively pulling the "middle finger" at young Kiwis trying to buy a home, Olsen added.
"New Zealand cannot afford to become a museum of yesteryear that locks in those protections for those who already have housing and puts the proverbial middle finger to young New Zealanders who are desperately trying to get into a house in the future," he told AM Early host Bernadine Oliver-Kerby.
Moves like the one by the Christchurch City Council could be destructive, Olsen said.
He reiterated his belief future generations would pay for such decisions.
"These sorts of actions are very detrimental to the future of the country. It is frustrating and, in fact, annoying that you’ve got these sorts of decisions being made at the expense of future generations.
"There is an increasing wealth divide between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’… these conversations could well lock us into those worse positions. We can either take that aspirational view of, ‘We want more housing and as a country, we’re going to enable it,’ or we can take that very short-term view of… ‘Let’s put on ice all of the developments in the country and figure out how we currently play musical chairs with a smaller number of houses with a larger and growing population.’"
Christchurch City Mayor Lianne Dalziel said one of the concerns those who voted against the standards had was the belief they lacked obligations for developers to keep existing trees in place.
Dalziel, who was one of the five council members who voted in favour of the standards, told RNZ’s Morning Report last week she expected the central Government to step in.