Jacinda Ardern

PHOTO: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern discuss “ghost homes” on The AM Show. Credits: Image – Getty / Newshub

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is not convinced by “ghost home” concerns despite Census data from 2018 showing nearly 40,000 vacant houses in Auckland.

At the 2018 census, there were nearly 1.9 million dwellings in New Zealand. Nearly 200,000 of those were unoccupied. The vast majority, 33,360, were in Auckland. The number of vacant homes rose from 6.6 percent in 2013 to 7.3 percent.

It led Auckland Mayor Phil Goff to explore the idea of filling vacant houses with homeless tenants, or with nurses, police and other essential workers. But nothing concrete came of it. The Māori Party meanwhile campaigned on slapping owners of empty homes with taxes.

But Ardern, with the ultimate decision-making power, doesn’t seem too concerned about it, telling The AM Show on Monday she’s spoken with local councils to get an idea of whether these “ghost homes” are contributing to the housing crisis.

“I’ve gone to local government and said, ‘Can you quantify how many vacant homes we have, do you see this as the issue?’ And from the councils’ perspective, their view wasn’t that we had a large-scale problem with vacant housing.”

Duncan Garner, host of The AM Show, told Ardern the local councils she spoke to are “dreamers”, because the data came from the official Census.