A bill reforming regulations for apartments, townhouses and other types of high-density property looks set for an easy ride through Parliament.
Drawn up by former National MP Nikki Kaye and then-Housing spokesperson Judith Collins in 2018, the bill seeks to strengthen the governance of body corporates and clean up other unit title fishhooks.
It being positioned as one among many solutions to New Zealand’s housing crisis. It is meant to make buying units more attractive by updating regulations around unit titles.
The bill was drawn from the ballot in July last year when it was in the name of Judith Collins. It was later adopted by National MP Nicola Willis and backed by Labour at the first reading, allowing it to progress to select committee stage.
Currently the bill is working its way through select committee, where it has received broadly positive feedback from councils, the legal community and insurers. Some submitters, however, have been concerned the new rules would be costly and time-consuming to implement.
Big changes include greater disclosure about a building to prospective purchasers; financial records, general body corporate minutes and details of insurance cover. The bill would seek to improve the professionalism of body corporate managers and require them to be members of an industry organisation. It would also require the drawing up and funding of a long-term maintenance plan to avoid any nasty surprises for residents who buy into a building only to learn they are on the hook for expensive building work to replace things like lifts, or to bring the building up to code.
Poto Williams, the Associate Housing Minister, wrote to Willis in April asking whether the government could adopt the bill. The offer was rejected by Willis, telling Williams the adoption of the bill would be “of little or no benefit” as “it will not widen the scope of potential amendments, but would risk further delaying what is already an overdue piece of legislative reform”.
Willis said she wanted to continue working with Poto Williams in a “constructive way”. Williams’ office has accepted this offer and was hoping that any concerns the government has with the bill could be worked through at the select committee stage.
The offer to adopt the bill as a government bill would come with the benefit of putting government resources behind its drafting and give it more time to be debated in the House. Willis, however, was concerned that effectively resetting the legislative process for the bill would unravel the urgency that has built up around the reform.
“What I’ve heard loud and clear from people is they have waited too long for these changes,” Willis said.
While Willis said it was “fantastic news” that the government was keen to continue supporting the bill, she didn’t want to stall the legislative process any longer.