Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

Gordon Campbell on National’s housing assistance plan

August 25th, 2014

So, as many as 90,000 people could derive some benefit from National’s housing assistance plans for low and middle-income earners. As much as $218 million might be spent on the programme that was announced yesterday by Prime Minister John Key. Yet in reality, the benefits seem likely to be insignificant, and they will be skewed towards those at the top end of the income group that’s supposedly the target.

Essentially, the policy involves tinkering with Kiwisaver in order to boost the size of the deposits available. However, to derive the significant benefits from the scheme, applicants will (a) have to be earning below certain incomes (b) the house price has to fall below a certain cap (c) the applicant needs to have been contributing to Kiwisaver for five years and (d) needs to be building a new home, rather than buying an existing one. Oh and obviously, the applicants will also (e) have to be able to service the subsequent mortgage.

Nothing in the policy will directly address the speculator-driven price of housing – if anything, as Labour leader David Cunliffe says, the help being offered with deposits is likely to be factored into the existing price equations, and will simply push up the cost of building a new home, or of buying an existing one. Given the yawning gap between the cost of housing and the assistance on offer, it’s still a bit like pushing a ladder out across the Grand Canyon. A nice gesture and every little bit helps etc etc but precious few will find it gets them across the great divide.

Of course, what it does far more successfully is foster the illusion that the government is doing something about the housing crisis. Not that National concedes that a housing crisis actually exists. As Key was saying back in 2012, there are no “overnight” solutions to the housing shortage and…he’s reasonably happy about that.

There’s no one silver bullet. We’re not arguing that house prices will fall over night as a result of what we are doing. In fact slow appreciation of houses is quite a good thing…

What National is now suggesting is that by (a) loosening the zoning rules to make more land available to developers and (b) by increasing the deposit available to applicants (largely by unlocking the door to their own Kiwisaver accounts ) this will somehow transform the supply side of the housing market and enable a flood of houses in the $350,000 to $450,000 bracket to be built. Dream on. The changes announced yesterday are mere electioneering that will – at best – merely tinker around the edges of the country’s housing crisis.

World’s Rarest Single Discovered.

It isn’t often that the musical equivalent of a British Guiana One–Cent stamp gets found. Happily in this case, the rarest of all records has not only just been unearthed in Britain but it is also a terrific piece of music. I’m talking about the 1967 soul song “Open The Door to My Heart” by Darrell Banks.

It seems that the only copy of this record ever pressed on the London label has just been found in England. London had pressed up a batch of copies of the Banks song when it thought it had the rights to it. On finding that it didn’t, it melted down the entire batch – all save for one copy nicked by a pressing plant worker, whose collection has just been bought by someone called Nick W. who then stumbled on the treasure hidden in the job lot.

This is the holy grail,” says collector, dealer and Wolves fan Pete Smith. “Nobody thought it existed.” It seems to have originally belonged to someone who worked at the pressing plant. Smith surmises that “this guy must have half-inched one from the factory the day it was pressed, gone back to work the next day and found out they’d trashed the lot.” London presumably melted down the copies they’d pressed before the single came out on Stateside a few weeks later. Just the one copy snuck out. The fortunate Nick W is keeping a low profile while he decides what to do with his find. It’s safe to say he could swap the record for a fancy holiday, and redecorate his house with the change – a conservative estimate values the single at £10,000.

BTW It is almost enough to restore your faith in human nature to read how warmly other record collectors have congratulated the lucky geezer concerned. You can track the story from the first tentative inquiry by Nick W, right through the dawning realization that history was in the making, on this message board here.

Oh, and as for the music itself? “Open The Door To Your Heart” single has always been a well-loved soul classic, and I wrote about it – and about the sad fate of Darrell Banks – a couple of years ago in this Werewolf column.

Surely this is how love was meant to be expressed:

Walk right on in, stretch out your arms
Let the lovelight shine on my soul, baby,
And let love come running in….

Let it flow like the river
Let it shine like the light
Take all my blind soul, baby
Why don’t you give it sight?

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    1. 4 Responses to “Gordon Campbell on National’s housing assistance plan”

    2. By Jason on Aug 25, 2014 | Reply

      $218M/90k people??

      So on average, a little under $2,500.

      How much of an assist is this really? For flagship policy seems rather weak, and completely out of scale with the media I’m seeing boosterism.

    3. By David on Aug 25, 2014 | Reply

      As a general rule, the housing market is so rooted now that any action is locking the stable door long after the horse has bolted (it had bolted by around 2002). The only real solution is the government taken a hands on approach and building tons of new houses itself, as the Greens propose.

    4. By clairbear on Aug 25, 2014 | Reply

      It seems one of the big arguments by Labour against this is that it was tried in Australia and didn’t work – fair enough – good to learn from the mistakes of others and house prices are way high in Australia, ok so lets try capital gains then that has – er well it hasn’t worked in Australia either.

      The next brilliant idea – “Asset Sales” labours plan is to take crown land and sell it off cheaply to build new houses.

    5. By Ted Blaikie on Aug 27, 2014 | Reply

      National plans to spend $218m in the next 4 years to assist 90,000 first home owners. This averages less than $2,500 per person. John Key, went in front of the nation and, with a straight face, implied that 90,000 first home owners were going to get close to $20,000 assistance to help them get into their fist home knowing full well they would, on average, get less than $2,500 each. He has cynically calculated that almost no one will do the maths. His objective was to con budding first home owners not address declining home ownership.

      This policy amounts to an offer of bread and circuses for the masses so that his Plutocrat mates can get the real oil.

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