The long-awaited KiwiBuild reset has proven to be a damp squib, with all the elements that made the policy unique now consigned to the rubbish bin, National’s Housing spokesperson Judith Collins says.
“It’s pretty easy to achieve targets when there aren’t any, which appears to be the Government’s strategy on housing. This shouldn’t surprise given how averse it is to setting measurable targets in other areas like health and education.
“New Zealanders who dream of home ownership will feel justifiably let down by the KiwiBuild reset. The three key elements are gone – there’s no 100,000 homes target, price caps have been loosened and the asset test for ‘second chancers’ is no more.
“There were no new initiatives to speed up the delivery of houses. All we got from the new Housing Minister was a commitment to try harder. What are prospective first-home buyers supposed to do with that? It’s meant to be KiwiBuild, not KiwiHope.
“This is a massive retreat from the flashy promises that Labour fooled the public with for so many years. If they had taken this watered-down policy to the last election they would have been laughed out of town.
“More details are needed around the Government’s progressive ownership schemes. There may be some merit in this approach, but the devil is always in the detail – and Labour’s policies have a habit of being light on detail.
“For months I questioned whether the Government had robust processes in place to ensure houses were being built where there was need. Megan Woods now admits that wasn’t the case and the taxpayer has underwritten $200 million worth of houses that can’t be sold.
“At least, after two years in Government, Labour has finally figured out it should be building houses where people want them, not just wherever developers have spare land.
“Real change on housing will require RMA reform to eliminate red tape and bring down the cost of building for everyone. National invited Labour to work bipartisanly on this, but instead they set up a working group that won’t report back until it is too late to make changes in this term of government.
“Labour talked a big game on housing but has failed to deliver meaningful change. The only KiwiBuild target still standing is the one on the Government’s back if it doesn’t get this right.”
The signs aren’t looking good for KiwiBuild’s reboot on the back of news it has lost another member of its leadership team inside 12 months, National’s Housing spokesperson Judith Collins says.
“The resignation of Helen O’Sullivan as head of KiwiBuild Commercial, having only been appointed in February, is a terrible look after Stephen Barclay’s departure last year.
“Both only lasted a matter of months in their roles before they abandoned the sinking ship that is KiwiBuild – and who could blame them?
“The fact this has happened just before the so-called KiwiBuild reset is confirmation that Labour’s flagship election policy is beyond saving. It also looks like a vote of no confidence in Megan Woods’ ability to get her party’s main election promise off life support.
“KiwiBuild has been a failure since day one. All of its delivery targets have been either watered-down or abandoned, it has done virtually nothing to make housing more affordable across the board, and it has become a drain on taxpayers who have underwritten more than $660 million worth of homes and have already bought back 17 KiwiBuild homes that haven’t sold.
“How many more executives need to run for the lifeboats before the Government realises that KiwiBuild is headed for the bottom of the ocean?”
The Government needs to give property owners their rights back and stop people manipulating the Resource Management Act to their advantage, National’s RMA Reform spokesperson Judith Collins says.
“The Government’s independent review of the RMA needs to usher in meaningful changes that will break down barriers to getting things built in this country.
“The fact the Government has worked out it can't get its own KiwiBuild developments going without changing the rules shows just how bad it is for everyone else.
“My concern is that by waiting so long to undertake this piece of work, the Government has left it too late in the electoral cycle to act on it. This suggests they aren’t confident of getting NZ First and the Greens on the same page.
“The last thing New Zealanders want or need is yet another working group that kicks an important issue to touch until after the next election.
“The RMA is no longer fit for purpose and is too easily gamed. One problem is businesses being able to stymie nearby business developments because they are anti-competitive.
“Another is developers trying to stop someone else's housing development from going ahead because they want to get their houses sold first, to get maximum value.
“The RMA stops things from being done quickly. People can fulfil every requirement put to them by councils and still go through a long-winded and expensive process.
“The law has become extremely tied up in red tape. It's an incredibly complex area that needs to return to what it was to begin with: enabling legislation.
“National is the party that gets stuff done. We are working on our own RMA reforms to take to the next election, which will make it quicker for developers to get properties to market, bringing down the price and making it easier for people to build houses.
“We are open to working with the Labour-led Government on this reform if it can present sensible solutions that will deliver New Zealand the infrastructure it needs.”
The Auditor-General’s office has confirmed it will investigate concerns raised by National about taxpayer cash being used to underwrite KiwiBuild houses, National’s Housing spokesperson Judith Collins says.
“I’ve discussed with the Auditor-General several concerns I have about the way KiwiBuild operated under former Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford. I’m glad his office agreed my concerns were worthy of further examination.
“In my view, serious questions need answering about the way taxpayer funds were used to prop up Labour’s flagship housing programme. My main concern is the suspicious-looking deal to underwrite houses already under construction in Canterbury and Auckland.
“KiwiBuild’s Cabinet paper made it clear the taxpayer underwrite – which guarantees developers a minimum price for houses that don’t sell – was for homes sold “off the plans” and offered for sale “in the first instance” to KiwiBuild buyers.
“But KiwiBuild underwrote a development in Otahuhu where all of the apartments were already complete. Council documents show the apartments were built to plans approved before the last election, and construction started before Phil Twyford became a Minister.
“The apartments were also unsuccessfully offered for sale at the same price KiwiBuild later underwrote them for.
“All of this runs contrary to what Cabinet had approved funding for. There was absolutely no benefit to taxpayers by underwriting these already complete apartments.
“Houses underwritten in Huapai, north of Auckland, and Canterbury fall into the same basket. They were under construction and unsuccessfully marketed well before KiwiBuild.
“What’s worse, the houses in Otahuhu, Huapai and Canterbury are all struggling to sell and the Government has been forced to step in and buy them with taxpayer cash.
“Phil Twyford committed to underwriting $660 million worth of KiwiBuild houses during his time in charge, leaving taxpayers with plenty of reasons to be worried.
“I’m very concerned that money has been appropriated by Cabinet and then used for a purpose that was not exactly agreed to. That is a serious issue and one for which Phil Twyford and any other Minister involved should be held to account."
Revelations that some people have qualified for KiwiBuild with house deposits upwards of $600,000 is further evidence the scheme is basically taxpayer-funded welfare, National’s Housing spokeswoman Judith Collins says.
Media reports have revealed three KiwiBuild pre-approvals were based on applicants with deposits of $650,000. The three people with pre-approval declared annual incomes of less than $11,000, yet they claimed the ability to stump up massive deposits with help from family members.
Sixteen applicants declared deposits of more than $200,000 with a number of others declaring more than $300,000.
“It’s been obvious for a while now that KiwiBuild is little more than welfare for property developers who are struggling to sell houses in places that people don’t want to live,” Ms Collins says.
“Now it appears that welfare scheme has been extended to New Zealanders with plenty of money they can tap into through parents or friends. Why does Phil Twyford feel the need to give these people a taxpayer subsidy when they can just take their large house deposits down to the bank and get a good deal?
“This shows that KiwiBuild is being accessed by people for whom it was clearly not intended. The scheme has a budget of $2 billion, yet hardly any first-home buyers have actually been able to benefit from it.
“New Zealanders were sold a dog at the last election. Phil Twyford had six years in Opposition to get KiwiBuild right but didn’t think the policy through. The best thing to do now would be to get rid of it and focus on working with community housing providers.
“While Labour continues to over-promise and under-deliver, National is the party that gets stuff done. We are working on Resource Management Act reform that will make it quicker for developers to get properties to market, bringing down the price, and make it cheaper and easier for people to build houses in the first place.”
KiwiBuild continues to offer nothing but failure, with the Government effectively confirming it won’t meet its watered-down expectation of 300 houses built in the project’s first year, National’s Housing spokesperson Judith Collins says.
When asked by media on Monday whether KiwiBuild would live up to Phil Twyford’s reduced expectation of 300 houses completed by June 30, the Prime Minister would not commit to that number.
“It’s yet another broken promise from the Government,” Ms Collins says.
“This shouldn’t surprise anyone after both the Prime Minister and Housing Minister refused earlier this month to commit to KiwiBuild’s over-arching pledge of delivering 100,000 affordable homes in a decade.
“This is just the latest in a long line of missed KiwiBuild targets. First the Government promised 1000 houses in year one, then it was 300 houses, and now it’s simply ‘not-many-at-all’ houses.
“Nowadays you hardly even hear anyone from Labour say the word ‘KiwiBuild’ out loud in public, which tells you how toxic this ill-thought-out policy has become.
“Labour has been planning KiwiBuild since 2012 and Phil Twford had six years in Opposition to get the policy right. Yet 19 months into the Government’s term, it has only managed to build 83 houses.
“This latest failure is further evidence that Mr Twyford needs to resign his Housing and Urban Development portfolio. His inability to deliver on Labour’s flagship election promise has robbed both him and his party of any credibility in the eyes of the public.
“KiwiBuild was a dog of a policy from day one and there’s little Mr Twyford can do to salvage it at this point. Allowing him to keep going will only tarnish the Prime Minister’s reputation.
“National knows the answer to providing New Zealanders with houses is to reform our planning laws to make it easier to build, and to help community housing providers put roofs over people’s heads.”
Despite Phil Twyford claiming there is “strong demand” for KiwiBuild houses in Canterbury, there hasn’t been a single sale since the first ones went on the market three months ago, National’s Housing spokesperson Judith Collins says.
“The Minister of Housing and Urban Development’s deal with Mike Greer Homes to underwrite 65 KiwiBuild houses in Canterbury with hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, is shaping up as a serious financial risk to the people of New Zealand.
“The first seven of these houses hit the market on February 20 with prices ranging from $459,000 to $480,000 – and Mike Greer Homes hasn’t had a single nibble from home buyers since then.
“There is little-to-zero demand for houses in this price bracket in Christchurch, despite Mr Twyford’s assertion to the contrary. It shows just how little thought was put into his KiwiBuild policy, which has been a spectacular failure.
“The Canterbury houses have gone unsold for so long now there is a real risk taxpayers will either have to buy them back as surplus to requirements, or Mike Greer Homes will drop their price on the open market and taxpayers will top up the lost profits.
“Taxpayers should be worried. The Minister of Housing and Urban Development has already committed to underwrite $660 million of KiwiBuild homes across the country.
“He should admit defeat and dump this terrible KiwiBuild policy now before he throws any more of New Zealanders’ tax dollars at developers to cover up his failings.
“National would focus our efforts on reforming the Resource Management Act, to bring down the cost of building for all New Zealanders, and support community housing providers who are much more experienced in this field than Mr Twyford.
It is time for the Minister of Housing and Urban Development to step down over his inability to deliver on the Government’s flagship housing policy, National’s Housing spokesperson Judith Collins says.
“Phil Twyford’s statement that he would ‘neither confirm nor deny’ whether the Government is still committed to building 100,000 KiwiBuild homes in 10 years confirms it is not. If it was, the Minister would say so rather than telling New Zealanders to wait for the results of KiwiBuild’s ‘reset’.
“The Prime Minister also failed to show leadership and commit to the target when questioned by National, which shows her Government has broken yet another election pledge just 18 months into its term.
“The only thing Phil Twyford has successfully built during his time in charge of KiwiBuild is a house of cards with all his flimsy promises to home-buyers, and that house has finally come crashing down. It’s time for him to go.
“There’s not a shred of credibility left for Labour’s failed programme. A thousand homes were promised in its first year, but that target was scrapped in January. Only 80 houses have been built thus far and only a third of them have sold.
“Phil Twyford has publicly staked his job on delivering 100,000 houses in a decade. Now that KiwiBuild is heading the way of Labour’s capital gains tax it’s time for him to honour that commitment and offer his resignation, for the sake of his and the Prime Minister’s credibility.
“Removing Mr Twyford from the equation would allow the Government to kill off KiwiBuild and focus on building state houses and encouraging community groups to be involved housing provision, as well as deal with much-needed reform of the Resource Management Act, which National is working on now.”
It is becoming increasingly confusing to figure out the level of rigour being applied by KiwiBuild officials before Phil Twyford gets out his chequebook, National’s Housing spokesperson Judith Collins says.
“The Minister of Housing and Urban Development has already spent $660 million taxpayer dollars on buying and underwriting KiwiBuild homes, and I’m very concerned about how much meaningful change his spending is actually having on the housing market.
“The Minister has said housing developments must satisfy an ‘additionality test’ in order to get a KiwiBuild subsidy. The idea is that the taxpayer cash injection will either speed up the delivery of those developments or see them redesigned to include more affordable houses.
“But when KiwiBuild swooped in to buy the 19-house Mason Square development in Otahuhu, all of those houses were already well under construction and 10 of them had already been completed.
“How can houses be redesigned or completed faster when they’ve already been completed?
“What’s more is the price of those homes didn’t drop a single cent from what they were being marketed at before KiwiBuild came calling – and only one of the houses offered for sale six months ago has actually sold.
“The Minister may well argue that buying the Otahuhu houses freed up the developer to get on with other things, but people can’t live inside good intentions, and the Otahuhu development looks like little more than a wasted subsidy at this point.”
Phil Twyford’s credibility as the minister in charge of KiwiBuild is shakier than it has ever been, and it’s time for someone else to step in and clean up the mess he’s made, National’s Housing spokesperson Judith Collins says.
“This past week has shown just how little knowledge the Minister has when it comes to KiwiBuild, as well as the lack of control he has over the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development.
“It started with his officials claiming the so-called additionality test they use to determine whether to underwrite KiwiBuild homes with taxpayer money is done verbally with developers.
“Then we saw the Minister tell Parliament that ‘extensive documentation’ existed to show the process his officials were following, only for his Ministry to then come out and say no such documentation existed.
“I believe Phil Twyford has misled the public over this issue, and if he cannot provide a satisfactory explanation for these shifting statements then it’s time for him to stand down as the Minister of Housing and Urban Development.
“It’s telling that his Ministry’s chief executive, Andrew Crisp, has also hidden from public view and is refusing to be interviewed on the problems plaguing KiwiBuild.
“These taxpayer underwrites guarantee developers a minimum price for KiwiBuild homes that don’t sell, and this latest fracas has shown the process followed to date before signing off $660 million worth of underwrites has been far from robust.”