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.”
Housing Minister Phil Twyford has shown how fast and loose he is playing with taxpayer money by underwriting millions worth of KiwiBuild houses based on little more than casual chats with developers, National’s Housing spokesperson Judith Collins says.
“Last month we found out Mr Twyford agreed to underwrite KiwiBuild houses with developer Mike Greer Homes, despite many of these already being built before KiwBuild got involved.
“Now the Minister has admitted he was surprised to learn – after questions from the National Party – that the test his officials used to determine whether the underwrite would apply was done verbally with the builder.
“Mr Twyford’s underwrites guarantee a minimum price for KiwiBuild homes that don’t sell, shifting the risk from the developer to the taxpayer. He was very fast and loose with taxpayers’ money last year, signing off $660 million worth of underwrites.
“Conversations are hardly a robust assessment of whether these homes will present a risk to the taxpayer, which is a real possibility given the shambles KiwiBuild has been to date.
“Only a third of the houses have sold; the Minister has already had to buy unsold houses and is now stuck with them; he has missed building targets and announced a recalibration in January that he said would take a few weeks, but still hasn’t been announced.
“Not only does this show how on-the-fly KiwiBuild has become. The lack of a paper trail for these government underwrites flies in the face of promises to be open and transparent.”
Housing Minister Phil Twyford’s contract to underwrite KiwiBuild houses with developer Mike Greer Homes is looking murkier and murkier, National’s Housing spokesperson Judith Collins says.
“There were 13 houses already being built by Mike Greer in the Christchurch development before KiwBuild got involved and agreed to underwrite 104 houses across the country. Just yesterday the Minister said ‘it’s not about individual houses’ failing to acknowledge that there were actually 13 of them.
“Mr Twyford claims the Mike Greer homes wouldn’t have been delivered without the help of him and his KiwiBuild programme.
“But by guaranteeing the price for Mike Greer KiwiBuild homes, the developer now no longer needs to worry whether they sell because the taxpayer is picking up the tab.
“Mr Twyford is claiming partnering with Mike Greer gave the developer confidence to deliver more affordable housing, but that excuse doesn’t fly given Mike Greer is also marketing its own non-KiwiBuild homes in the development, some larger with an extra bedroom or bathroom, for $20,000 less.
“Now that the Minister has guaranteed Mike Greer a price for their homes, the developer can focus on selling homes that, for all intents and purposes, are better value for money than their neighbouring KiwiBuild dwellings, in a market that has an oversupply of houses.
“The Minister has more dollars than sense. Not only is his pet project failing, but it’s now risking thousands of taxpayer dollars if the KiwiBuild homes don’t sell for the price he has guaranteed them at.
“KiwiBuild isn’t adding any houses that wouldn’t already have been built, and in some places they’re more expensive than houses without the KiwiBuild sticker. The taxpayer is paying for Mr Twyford’s mistakes.”
Housing Minister Phil Twyford’s pet housing project KiwiBuild is not only unlikely to reach any targets set, but those houses it does deliver will be at the expense of houses that were being built by the private sector, National’s Housing spokesperson Judith Collins says.
“Mr Twyford arrogantly ignored the Reserve Bank’s forecast in November last year that KiwiBuild will only deliver 7000 to 14,000 additional houses by 2022, significantly lower than the 28,000 houses the Minister has promised.
“Earlier last year Mr Twyford had called officials at Treasury, who had made similar estimates, ‘kids… completely disconnected from reality’.
“Today, the Reserve Bank Governor said if KiwiBuild is to build 100 houses, that means between 50 and 75 houses elsewhere won’t be built, and Mr Twyford once again could not accept that information.
“KiwiBuild is not substantially adding to the housing supply in areas where it is needed, and in homes the size that people want to buy. Instead it is simply redirecting workers away from private home builders.
“The policy is not only going to fail to build enough houses, but its stripping resources away from builders that were already going to be built or were in the pipeline.
“National had a comprehensive housing programme underway when we left office. We were on track to build nearly 100,000 homes over the next three years, which is twice the number of houses currently in Dunedin.
“It is no wonder KiwiBuild is a joke. Mr Twyford was lazy in Opposition and didn’t hammer out the details. He’s blindly pushing on with the programme, despite all signs pointing to KiwiBuild descending into one of the biggest failures of public policy in recent New Zealand history.
“It’s Mr Twyford who is ‘completely disconnected from reality’.”
The Government’s ‘no eviction’ policy and soft stance on criminal and anti-social behaviour has seen neighbours forced to put up with unruly Housing New Zealand tenants, National’s Housing spokesperson Judith Collins says.
“I warned Housing Minister Phil Twyford more innocent, law-abiding people will be forced to uproot their lives and live elsewhere when his Government confirmed Housing New Zealand tenants won’t be evicted for anti-social behaviour.
“Mr Twyford has his priorities completely wrong, he should be ensuring law-abiding families are able to continue living their lives without fear of their neighbours, instead he’s willing to protect tenants who are involved in criminal behaviour and disrupting the entire street.
“That’s just wrong.
“Housing New Zealand’s reluctance to do anything for either the health and safety of the tenant or the neighbour is becoming an alarming trend.
“A neighbourhood in Hastings has been disrupted with constant noise from gang members and regular visits from the police despite multiple complaints to Housing New Zealand.
“Late last year a constituent of mine contacted me after repeatedly asking Housing New Zealand to replace locks. They had been burgled three times.
“And earlier this year another tenant spent eight months asking Housing New Zealand to repair their home and act on a doctor’s note that requested a larger house for the family.
“Mr Twyford needs to take control of Housing New Zealand. It’s not right a law-abiding family is being punished for the unruly behaviour of tenants. A home should be a safe haven for families, not a place of intimidation and fear.”
News the ill-conceived ballot process has failed young New Zealanders in Wanaka leading to the sale of KiwiBuild houses on the open market is further proof that KiwiBuild is a farce, National’s Housing and Urban Development spokesperson Judith Collins says.
“KiwiBuild is descending into one of the biggest failures of public policy in recent New Zealand history. Only four of the first 10 KiwiBuild houses in Wanaka sold at ballot as intended. This is an ominous sign as the Minister has agreed to underwrite 211 houses in Wanaka.
“We are seeing the same concerning pattern in Te Kauwhata, where none of the first 10 of 175 homes sold through the ballot.
“The list of KiwiBuild failures is now longer than that of KiwiBuild home addresses and the policy desperately needs a rethink before more young New Zealanders are let down.
“The ballot system was always ill conceived. It was just something the Government put in place because it had no other ideas and no desire to pursue them.
“Why should taxpayers subsidise houses for a select group of New Zealanders lucky enough to be drawn from the ballot? And why should they be able to pocket the capital gain? Especially when, as we know some of those New Zealanders are already well off.
“It’s unfair and untargeted and it’s not working - just like the Government was told.
“It’s yet more evidence the Government was lazy and didn’t give any thought to a multi-billion policy beyond the headlines it would create.
“Now there are more nails in the coffin of KiwiBuild than in the houses themselves. It’s time for the Government to admit failure.
“National knows the answer to providing the houses New Zealanders need is to reform our planning laws to make it easier to build. That’s why we will put forward a reformed RMA Bill this year to show New Zealanders that there is hope and a way forward.”
The Prime Minister is claiming KiwiBuild is going through a ‘recalibration’ as she is forced to drop all interim targets, but in reality the scheme is flat-lining, National’s Housing spokesperson Judith Collins says.
“Mr Twyford has tried to claim he’s only six months into a ten year project, but KiwiBuild was allocated $25 million as early as December 2017 when he announced the first KiwiBuild houses in Mt Albert.
“The Government argues it didn’t kick off KiwiBuild until the middle of last year but the programme has been underway for more than a year, and it still only has 47 houses.
“At her weekly post-Cabinet press conference the Prime Minister said this year is the year of delivery, but the next day she’s admitted the Government won’t be delivering on its flagship scheme. All interim KiwiBuild targets have been ripped out of the picture.
“But even stripping KiwiBuild back to its bones isn’t going to change the fact that the scheme is turning out to be one of the biggest public policy failings this country has seen in a long time.
“KiwiBuild has been allocated $2 billion and all it has delivered is 47 houses.
“Mr Twyford clearly didn’t do his homework in Opposition, and now the Government is left with flagship policy in shambles and it’s doing everything it can to turn it around. But that’s unlikely to happen because it’s not building the houses people want so they’re not selling.
“There is no point in wasting taxpayer money to fund a policy with a key objective to increase the supply of affordable housing if you’re going to build houses that people don’t want. It’s a flop.
“By removing interim targets the Government is removing any way for New Zealanders to measure its progress and hold Mr Twyford to account on his shambles of a housing scheme. That’s incredibly poor.
“The Prime Minister shouldn’t bother trying to revive KiwiBuild. It’s a discredited policy, and instead of wasting $2 billion of taxpayer funds the Government should focus on reforming the RMA like National has proposed.”
Three months on and selling the 175 KiwiBuild houses in Te Kauwhata is looking more like a far-fetched dream rather than reality for Housing Minister Phil Twyford, but it’s not the case for other non-KiwiBuild homes in the same development, National’s Housing spokesperson Judith Collins says.
“The ballot for the Te Kauwhata KiwiBuild houses opened late October, and three months on they all remain un-sold. Mr Twyford’s excuse for this has been that first home buyers did not always want to buy a home off the plans that was scheduled to be built a year and a half later.
“But while the KiwiBuild houses have failed to entice buyers, the same development has sold plenty of other non-KiwiBuild houses off the plans just fine.
“It’s incredibly embarrassing for the Minister, who not only can’t reach his much plugged target of 1000 KiwiBuild homes, but the houses he has built are clearly not what first-home buyers want.
“This should have been obvious to the Minister from the start that first home buyers would be unimpressed with two-bedroom houses in rural Waikato offered for $480,000 each.
“I’ve been critical in the past of the type of homes Mr Twyford has insisted on building. For example, the Wanaka KiwiBuild homes don’t have a garage, and homeowners will be forced to de-frost their car every day in the winter months because of this.
“The Minister’s blatant disregard for detail has been shown time and time again, and now he’s putting hardworking taxpayer money at risk because of it.
“Despite Mr Twyford acknowledging first home buyers don’t always want to buy a home off the plans and that he ‘won’t be doing much more of that’, he is planning on signing $4 billion worth of contracts for buying off the plans.
“If this decision sucks up the Government’s $2 billion capital fund, the whole scheme will fall over, which is looking more and more likely given the abandonment of the 1000 homes target.
“Mr Twyford is set on telling New Zealanders the type of houses they should be buying. Instead of forcing them to settle for two bedroom homes, he should get to work addressing the real problem causing houses to be expensive, the Resource Management Act.”
This year Housing Minister Phil Twyford is employing a new method in order to try and sell his KiwiBuild homes – prospective first home buyers can begin the process of buying a home on the spot without entering a ballot, National’s Housing spokesperson Judith Collins says.
“Labour campaigned on KiwiBuild running a ballot system to ‘ensure everyone is treated fairly’ as there would be ‘significant demand for KiwiBuild homes, particularly in the first few years of the programme’.
“How wrong they were.
“KiwiBuild is considerably less popular than expected. Instead of the expected excessive demand, the Government is struggling to sell its houses.
“The policy underwent several changes last year to fix its lack of popularity. Instead of paying back the full profit if a buyer sold their home within five years, it’s now three years and only 30 per cent has to be paid back.
“The owner can also let out their property and again only pay back 30 per cent of the rental income.
“And finally, Mr Twyford has just dropped his target of building 1000 homes a year, something the Labour Party campaigned on and in Government has continued claimed they would do.
“Mr Twyford knows his policy is going under, admitting he’s now just ‘willing the policy to bear fruit and come to life’. But will and hope won’t build or sell houses.
“The Minister needs to come clean. Have ballots been foregone because people don’t want to enter them? Where are the tens of thousands of prospective buyers who have expressed interest?
“When people aren’t bothering to enter ballots and the homes are available to ‘first come first serve’ buyers, it’s a slippery slope to a fire sale.
“Mr Twyford needs to begin 2019 with a clean slate, and that means scrapping the KiwiBuild sham. He’s already confirmed he can’t reach his 1000 homes target, and now he’s at risk of breaking more promises.”