Should Government cut KiwiBuild?

The AM Show 28/05/2019

National housing spokesperson Judith Collins says Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern needs to front up and dump KiwiBuild as another target is dropped.

On Monday, Ardern said there were 400 houses under construction as part of its flagship housing programme, but she couldn't say when they would be built or how many would be completed by June 30.

While the first annual target for KiwiBuild was originally 1000 homes, in January Housing Minister Phil Twyford said only 300 would be done by the deadline.

"We've got about 300 homes, so they are either completed or contracted in this first 12 month period," he said at the time.

But on Monday, at her post-cabinet press conference, Ardern denied there were ever targets and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development also said there was no June 30 target. They wanted KiwiBuild partners to focus on safety and quality, rather than an "artificial date".

She stood by that on Tuesday, telling The AM Show there were no yearly targets.

"At the moment, we have 400 under construction. We haven't given a completion date for those as anyone who has built a house before knows that can be a bit moveable, particularly depending on weather," Ardern said.

"There have been things we needed to iron out with KiwiBuild."

This is the first time any Government has tried to do what we are doing.

"Which is to try and increase the amount of supply that has been generated by the private sector."

But Collins says KiwiBuild is a "farce" and the Government should dump the programme.

"We will dump it if Labour don't have the courage to do it themselves," she told The AM Show on Wednesday.

"They said 1000 houses in their first financial year as Government, earlier this year they said 300-400, now we are down to about 80 at the moment, I could have just taken the money and gone out and brought some houses.

"I think the Prime Minister looked very uncomfortable at her post-cabinet stand up yesterday."

She looked like she was not wanting to comment on KiwiBuild.

"I think she just needs to front up and say 'We did have the targets, we campaigned on them, then we changed them. They failed. We failed. Let's get rid of this silly policy'."

The KiwiBuild website says there are 83 homes completed with just 33 days until the programme's first birthday.

Collins said instead of spending its time on a broken programme, the Government should attempt to fix the Resource Management Act and planning rules to make it easier to build houses.

"What we have seen is the private sector in the last 15 months have built 42,000 homes, the Government has got them to build about 80 for them," she said.

How about letting the private sector get on with it.

"Sorting out the Resource Management Act and urban planning rules, and actually making it easier for people to get stuff done cheaper."

Whether the programme's overall target of 100,000 homes in 10 years still stands is yet to be determined as KiwiBuild goes through a recalibration process, but Ardern said that shouldn't take focus away from more first-home buyers getting into the market.

"For first home buyers in the market, in the last couple of years, they have made up 18 percent, we heard recently they now make up 24 percent of the market."

She also didn't want the Government's work to build new state homes to be forgotten, saying that 1200 state homes have been built since the Government came to power and 2000 are under construction.

"While we have been working on KiwiBuild, we have had that massive state house build programme, we have put an extra 1000 places into HousingFirst, which is about housing the chronically homeless and those rough sleepers.

We haven't just had one part of a housing programme.

Collins denied the suggestion that the previous National Government had neglected state houses and those who need them, saying that Government supported community housing initiatives that provide more than just a home.

"What I would like to say is that we support the community housing initiatives that have proven so helpful."

"These are the sorts of things we should be doing, not actually just giving someone a house to live in, but actually putting in a whole wraparound service.

"I think it is absolutely important [to build state houses]... at the same time look at our stock we have got now and say 'is that still fit for purpose', and if it is not, replace it with newer stock. That is absolutely crucial."

The AM Show / Newshub reporter Jamie Ensor