I’m a gambling man so I will happily take odds on this one. All bets payable next Monday morning.
I see that Andrew Little has announced Labour’s new policy on fixing the housing crisis but will drop the actual details on the weekendÂ (linkÂ here).
Somehow I donâ€™t think the fact that he announced it days after National wheeled out its own policy for solving the housing crisis was a coincidence.
For Little this is a big opportunity, National have dropped the ball in regards to housing time and again and, as many have said, â€œmucked around the edgesâ€ rather than do anything concrete to fix a situation that shows no sign of fixing itself.
If Labours new policy has some genuine fixes to the situation and is not just another policy gimmick then expect this to be a game changer in the coming election because if you donâ€™t think housing will be an issue in votersâ€™ minds in 2017 then you might as well click off this page, shut the computer down and take a walk round your ultra-palatial, multimillion dollar, property because you are probably the only person in New Zealand that thinks so.
Housing has been a running theme for several years now but the magnitude of the problem is no longer able to be ignored or swept under the rug. If normally hands off National has been forced to wheel out some sort of â€œpolicy responseâ€ to address the growing concern then you know itâ€™s a growing issue.
As Chris Trotter noted in todayâ€™s paper, National has nothing less than the removal of the state from the housing market in NZ as its stated goal and anything they do is not going to change that. Its new policy sounds less like a fix, as other commentators have already pointed out, and more like a desperate illusion of a government out of ideas and unwilling to upset its backers who profit from the current housing crisis.
And John Key knows this as his warning to party faithful at the recent party conference in Christchurch last weekend (just down the road from my house) was all about not being complacent and expecting to breeze into a fourth term.
Perhaps it was also an understanding that Brand Key has lost some of its gloss and simply relying on a series of public relations spin and plastering his face on billboards wonâ€™t fix things (unless someone is going to build houses out of those billboards).
So National has played its cards on the housing crisis and Andrew Little and Labour (scrappy rebels that they are) have seen an opening and decided to take it by announcing their own solution to the housing crisis.
This is the â€œstealing the narrative oxygenâ€ strategy I noted a few weeks back and the potential to make big political capital off this is not to be sneezed at.
But as always the proof is in the pudding and we will have to wait until the weekend to find out.
The media has already done some speculation on whatâ€™s coming up (by linking it to Labours Kiwibuild policy) and Little himself has hinted some more by noting that whatever else the policy will do it will get houses prices to â€œa figure thatâ€™s affordableâ€.
But what is â€œaffordableâ€? Is it around $500,000 as Little seems to think? And if we take his anti-speculator comments as real then these questions become even more pertinent as where is the line between owning a house and speculation? Is it when you own more than one house? Is it when the average property is around $500,000 (as opposed to the $1,000,000 it is now for a house in Auckland)? Where does it lie?
What policy prescriptions will be given that will do anything to stop a bubble housing market from getting bigger, or worse reducing the damage from when the bubble bursts? The answer to this looming bubble of doom and gloom is likely to be, say it with me, STATE INTERVENTION, as leaving the market to continue on as it has been will clearly do nothing and there is no alternate other than state intervention to address a clear market imbalance (if readers have any other suggestions please feel free to add them in the comments).
Donâ€™t think Labour wonâ€™t go down this road? Afraid that the Labour of the past three decades will rear its ugly head and roll over for the market? Well you may be right but in the climate of New Zealandâ€™s housing crisis as well as the international mood of growing dissatisfaction with the Status quo means Little and Labour would be mad to not a) propose a vote winning solution to New Zealand number one issue; and b) tap into the growing dissent around the same old same olds of politics in Aotearoa.
The alternates are not pretty, especially now that Labour in the UK has effectively decided that outright public squabbling is the way to go and the recent results at the ballot box in Oz show that voters canâ€™t make up their minds either.
And Andrew Little will have been watching his counterparts in the UK and OZ and doing the math in his head. He knows, as do many many others, that his position is only as secure as the support he has in cabinet, public perception of him and the ability of the Party to counter the current government in policy prescription.
So wheeling out more of the same is not likely to gain support of the public or the party and this is not a crisis that will just go away especially when the Reserve Bank, fronted by Graeme Wheeler is warning of a â€œsharp correctionâ€ in the housing market.
So in my mind the die has been cast, Little and Labour are going to announce a new housing policy which will be in effect â€˜State Houses part IIâ€™. It makes sense and it would address the problem. It also is a clear distinction with National which is going to be key to winning the next election.
The opportunity here is prime and for a limited time only. The effect on the situation if Labour announced a sure and dedicated expansion in affordable public housing would be immense and tap into so many strands of concern that exists today (increasing homelessness, price speculation, the housing shortage etc).
If Labour donâ€™t have anything which is a real solution AND catches the publicâ€™s imagination then expect a long and painful 16 months until the next election. We have the next five days to speculate. Go!