The Kākā Project: An interview with ACT's David Seymour about housing

ACT wants to enable homeowners to block densification unless 70% vote for it; Seymour sees many secretly voting to densify to get higher land values; eyes 50% of building materials GST for councils

Sep 16, 2023

TL;DR: I interviewed ACT Leader David Seymour this week after the party released its housing policy

, which includes:

  • an aim to build 51,000 new houses a year, which relies on a migration forecast of around 28,000 per year (there was 96,200 net migration in the year to the end of July);

  • sharing 50% of the GST on new house builds with Councils to help them pay for infrastructure, which it estimates could provide an extra $1.2b a year in funding;

  • repealing the RMA and replacing the current Medium Density Residential Standards (MDRS) rules allowing three three-storey townhouses per regular sections with the Auckland Mixed House Suburban zone rules, which only allow two storey detached homes;

  • only allowing more intense developments if 70% of affected residents vote for intensification;

  • allowing land owners to apply to a tribunal to allow densification and compensation for affected landowners; and,

  • allow builders to opt out of needing council consents if they can get building insurance from a regulated insurer.

Seymour released ACT’s housing policy at a St Heliers ‘street corner’ meeting with deputy Brooke van Velden. Photo: Lynn Grieveson / The Kākā

Seymour thinks home owners would opt to vote for densification, given it would increase land values. He also sees a need for more greenfields development and wants to see Kainga Ora stop building new state homes, with social house building done instead by community groups.

In my view, the densification votes will block brownfields developments and force councils to look at Greenfields developments. Unfortunately, the $1.2 billion in GST payments is not enough to pay for the more expensive infrastructure and public transport costs on the edges of towns.

ACT’s policies are a recipe for ongoing housing shortages, especially given even its 51,000 target is an under-cooking of the need, especially as it assumes net migration at less than half the current rate.

Through the lens of The Kaka Project

In The Kaka Project for Election 2023 we try to put the latest policy or political development into the context of:

  • the key problems, facts and history around the issue being addressed by the election policy or political issue;

  • The alternatives proposed by other political parties standing for election, regardless of whether they’re already in Parliament or polling suggests they are on track to be elected;

  • the pros and cons, trade-offs, unintended consequences and flow-on implications to other areas of the political economy from those policies;

  • unanswered questions; and,

  • the options from overseas or policies not proposed by political parties, including The Kaka Project’s current preferred policy.

The Kākā Project’s current shape:

  • a broad-based and low-rate tax system on income, spending, land, climate emissions, water pollution, treated water and congestion to fund publicly funded education, health, transport and housing;

  • that includes a 0.5% per annum tax on all residential zoned land (with multiples for unoccupied homes and land) to fund infrastructure that enables enough zero emissions housing and transport infrastructure to halve emissions by 2030 and remove them completely by 2050; and,

  • that achieves gross zero climate emissions from housing and transport and housing and transport affordability for all by 2050, as measured by renting or ownership costs being less than a combined 40% of disposable income for those in the poorest quintile of earners.



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ACT’s housing policy below, which includes a desire for 51,000 new homes a year, which is based on a NZ Initiative analysis (below that) that assumes long-term net migration of around 28,000 per year. Net migration was 96,200 in the year to July and is forecast by Treasury to hit 100,000 later this year. Net migration averaged 35,000 in the 10 years to Covid.

230909 Act Policy Document (housing)
59.2KB ∙ PDF file