Embattled Housing Minister Phil Twyford’s refusal to answer questions about why the Head of KiwiBuild Stephen Barclay is ‘out of the office’ shows that the programme continues to be in a state of disorganisation and chaos, National’s Housing spokesperson Judith Collins says.
“Mr Twyford announced Mr Barclay’s position in May this year with great fanfare, tweeting ‘great to have someone of Stephen’s calibre leading the KiwiBuild team’. But within five months, Mr Barclay is now ‘away from work’ and has not even met with Mr Twyford since early November.
“This begs the question, if the Minister stopped meeting with the head of his flagship programme four weeks ago, what is going on? KiwiBuild is Mr Twyford’s pet housing project, and with it currently failing, you’d think the Minister would be meeting with Mr Barclay every week.
“The Minister doesn’t even know whether Mr Barclay is still being paid. If he hasn’t resigned as the Minister insists, isn’t taking personal leave, and is still employed, does this mean the taxpayer is forking out for a chief executive who isn’t at work?
“To make matters worse for Mr Twyford, another senior official in the Minister’s Transport portfolio, New Zealand Transport Agency Chief Executive Fergus Gammie has resigned. When two high-level officials disappear within a month, it’s clear something isn’t right.
“It’s evident this Government doesn’t have proper regard for Kiwi taxpayers’ hard-earned money, as it’s currently spending $700,000 a day on reviews and working groups. But New Zealanders deserve answers about what is going on.
“With the KiwiBuild programme already stalling, with hardly any homes built, and with even fewer prospective first home buyers committing to those houses, the Minister needs to be seriously reconsidering ploughing on with KiwiBuild.”
Housing Minister Phil Twyford is in denial that his flagship KiwiBuild housing programme is falling apart, National’s Housing spokesperson Judith Collins says.
“Five Onehunga KiwiBuild apartments remain unsold, three months after the ballot first opened. A further four apartments are conditional and will be finalised on completion.
“Mr Twyford has also changed his tune on when the apartments will be completed. He had initially announced they would be finished by August next year. However, today he admitted the apartments at Onehunga won’t be completed until June 2020.
“This was a development that was announced with great fanfare, but the Minister’s proposals for the apartments didn’t add up and the developer had to increase the size of the studios.
“Mr Twyford was also forced to embarrassingly admit no houses have been sold in Te Kauwhata, with no prospective buyers interested in completing the sales and purchase process. Further, the Wanaka development has only sold four houses.
“The Minister has signed up to buy $2 billion worth of property but has fewer than 300 interested buyers. The entire project could stall immediately if he is unable to sell the houses he has bought.
“It’s difficult for first home buyers to feel confident about buying into the risky KiwiBuild scheme, especially with a Minister who has made a name for himself by not doing his due diligence.
“First home buyers want assurances their new home will tick all the boxes and is a secure investment. Mr Twyford is letting them down and it’s a clear to New Zealanders he is struggling to deliver on his many housing promises.
“It’s crystal clear the KiwiBuild programme isn’t working with houses throughout the country being left ownerless. Mr Twyford is desperately trying to convince New Zealand that KiwiBuild is the answer to our housing woes, but it’s obvious no one’s buying it.”
New Zealanders across the country are quickly losing interest in the Government’s KiwiBuild policy with Housing Minister Phil Twyford confirming today that first home buyers are not purchasing KiwiBuild homes, National’s Housing spokesperson Judith Collins says.
“The ballot closed for the first houses in Wanaka and Te Kauwhata last month. Across these developments only four of the 20 houses sold, a worrying sign given the Minister has agreed to buy almost 400 houses across the two sites.
“The Minister has underwritten around $200 million worth of houses across Wanaka and Te Kauwhata. Given that only four have sold, serious questions need to be asked about the level of due diligence Mr Twyford undertook before agreeing to sign such a contract.
“When the development at Te Kauwhata was announced I expressed doubt as to whether there would be enough demand for 211 KiwiBuild houses in a town with fewer than 2,000 people.
“The Minister has made a big deal about the 40,000 people who have made an expression of interest in KiwiBuild, but fewer than 300 of those people have actually followed through with the pre-qualification process.
“The scheme has found it difficult to turn political popularity into meaningful commitments by home buyers.
“The Minister has had years to come up with a comprehensive housing policy. The fact hardly anyone is interested in KiwiBuild is indicative of the type of due diligence Mr Twyford undertook when announcing the scheme.
“It is becoming clearer by the day that there is a lack of enthusiasm for KiwiBuild. There are not enough buyers and it is not adding new houses to the market. The entire scheme is at risk of collapse.”
News that developers of an upscale apartment complex in Auckland can sell units to foreigners shows the flakiness of the Government’s decision to restrict the supply of foreign capital, National’s Housing spokesperson Judith Collins says.
“National welcomes the decision by the Overseas Investment Office to grant an exemption for foreign investors in the $300 million-$400 million Pacifica apartment building. The Government has tried to make a virtue out of restricting foreign buyers, starving the market of the funds to grow and meet demand.
“Overseas capital has always helped drive our economic growth and shutting the door to it just means other countries get the benefit instead. But this Government campaigned and passed a law to restrict foreign buyers purchasing New Zealand homes.
“In the lead up to the election Labour’s Phil Twyford, now Housing Minister, ran a scare campaign, claiming buyers with ‘Chinese sounding names’ were not real New Zealanders deserving of a home, and were responsible for ‘pricing first-home buyers out of the market’.
“New Zealand’s capital markets aren’t deep enough to meet all of our funding needs, be it highways or apartments or prisons. If we want more apartments built we need foreign capital.
“The Government has made it harder for developers, like those behind the Pacifica apartments, forcing them to jump through hoops which slows developments like these down. But having foreign buyers interested in apartments adds credibility and mitigates risks.
“We welcome the Government ensuring this investor and developer doesn’t take their millions of dollars and new apartments overseas. Because without foreign capital, fewer houses are built.”
Housing Minister Phil Twyford confirmed today he does not agree with the Reserve Bank’s forecast that KiwiBuild will only deliver between a quarter and a half of the number of houses he has promised, National’s Housing spokesperson Judith Collins says.
“Earlier in the year Mr Twyford called officials at Treasury ‘kids… completely disconnected from reality’ for stating KiwiBuild would only bring in $2.5 billion of additional residential investment over 2018-2022. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) had that figure at around $11 billion.
“At the time the Minister tried to claim Treasury didn’t understand the policy and their numbers were wrong, now six months on the Reserve Bank has also made a forecast and it appears Treasury’s numbers were right all along.
“The Reserve Bank’s estimates assumes KiwiBuild will only deliver 7000 to 14,000 additional houses by July 2022, significantly lower than the 28,000 houses the Minister has promised.
“The Minister is simply pinching houses that would have already been delivered by the private sector and sticking a KiwiBuild badge on them. KiwiBuild won’t be adding 10,000 homes to the market, it will simply consume houses already underway.
“The private sector is being displaced because Mr Twyford failed to consider how he would increase capacity in the construction industry.
“While the arrogant Minister still doesn’t accept Treasury’s estimates, Mr Twyford is clearly worried KiwiBuild won’t deliver the number of houses he has promised, stating in Parliament today he is purely ‘hopeful’ KiwiBuild will meet its targets.
“For KiwiBuild to be considered a useful policy, it not only needs to deliver Mr Twyford’s target of 100,000 homes, but it has to do that over and above what the private sector would have delivered. At the moment it’s looking unlikely it will even reach half of its target.”
Housing Minister Phil Twyford is cancelling plans to build affordable houses just so he can label them KiwiBuild, National’s Housing spokesperson Judith Collins says.
“Mr Twyford is so worried about meeting his 10,000 KiwiBuild homes a year target, he is making illogical decisions that see hardworking Kiwi families on a low to middle income pay $100,000 more for a home – just so these houses can get the KiwiBuild seal.
“Housing New Zealand (HNZ) was working to develop a mixture of social, HNZ and shared equity homes in a development in Marfell, New Plymouth. This development would have benefitted those on a low to middle income.
“Instead, the Minister is promoting a KiwiBuild development on the site, with houses a lot more expensive than what they were anticipated to be sold at if built by the original developer.
“The arrogance of the Minister knows no bounds, Mr Twyford argued in Parliament today that his plan to charge hard working Kiwi families in Marfell $100,000 more for his ‘affordable KiwiBuild homes’ is the ‘superior option’.
“Under the original proposal, a two bedroom house was priced at $198,000, but Mr Twyford’s KiwiBuild houses have a maximum price of $450,000.
“This is a Minister who has consistently shown he isn’t doing the research when announcing KiwiBuild developments, out of the first 10 Wanaka KiwiBuild homes only seven sold due to a lack of demand.
“It has become clear that the Government is unable to deliver on any of its KiwiBuild promises. The Minister is desperately grabbing any house he can and putting a KiwiBuild sticker on it, in the process pulling the rug out from potential community housing projects.”
Labour has endowed its junior partner with wads of cash and latitude to meddle but its grandiose plans to reshape North Island port and transport infrastructure smacks of nationalisation, National’s Judith Collins and Paul Goldsmith say.
“It beggars belief that Labour is playing along with NZ First’s scheme to divert shipping, freight and logistics to Northland, against the wishes of profitable port companies and their owners, with no economic rationale and at vast cost,” Infrastructure spokesperson Judith Collins says.
“Ports of Auckland facilitates 170,000 jobs in the Auckland region. If vehicle imports alone were moved to Northport it would result in an extra 19 million kilometres of road transport and $81 million in extra annual costs. Carbon emissions would jump by 22,500 tonnes.
“It must be awkward for Labour to see the Auckland Council under Mayor Phil Goff visibly squirming as this working group runs its ruler over the Council-owned Ports of Auckland without bothering to talk to the Council.
“Labour brought this on itself because not only did it give NZ First billions of dollars of loose cash to spend but also agreed to a feasibility study to move Ports of Auckland to Whangarei and a promise to spend some of the $3 billion Provincial Growth fund on regional rail.
“Stakeholders in ports and transport will be gobsmacked at this body of work. Sure there are questions about the future of some Auckland port activities but that should be based on economics not politics and owners of profitable businesses shouldn’t have the playing field changed from under them,” Ms Collins says.
“Auckland Council’s spending needs are huge and its debt lines are all but tapped out. It should be looking hard at its spending and its assets, including the port but seemingly Jones wants those decisions made in Wellington by politicians. In other countries, that is called nationalisation,” Transport spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
“It’s clear this is a faulty process because Auckland councillors say they don’t trust Shane Jones’ working group and worry that they will lose control of one of Auckland’s key infrastructure assets.
“A massive amount of work towards developing a long-term plan for the port has already been done, and the working group’s willingness to dismiss this work has only fuelled this discontent. Mr Jones is damaging the relationship between Council and Government.
“This, sadly, is what we’ve come to expect from the clear politicisation of the Provincial Growth Fund by Shane Jones. He has defended the clear bias in funding so far to Northland with the line ‘to the victor goes the spoils’.
“New Zealand’s infrastructure is too important to be used as a political football. It should be geared toward economic growth and free from political meddling, as it would be under a National Government,” Mr Goldsmith says.
The KiwiBuild programme could end up costing the taxpayer $1.8 billion after only seven houses in the Wanaka Northlake development have been sold, National’s Housing spokesperson Judith Collins says.
“The likelihood of Housing Minister Phil Twyford’s pet housing scheme KiwiBuild building reaching its target of 10,000 homes a year by the end of the Government’s first term in office is looking dire.
“Mr Twyford has argued that buying off the plans doesn’t require the Government to spend a dollar.
“But the Minister has also confirmed if those houses that have been bought off the plans don’t sell, the Government will be forced to buy them. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment have estimated that this could cost $20,000 to $50,000 per house.
“If up to 35 per cent of houses are delivered through the buying off the plans initiative, the Government could face a cost of up to $1.8 billion, out of KiwiBuild’s budget of $2 billion.
“Mr Twyford is going to struggle to deliver on his promise if he continues to announce houses bought off the plans in areas where there isn’t enough demand. There are 211 KiwiBuild houses in Wanaka that have been underwritten, but the ballot for the first 10 has not only been extended, but at the end it also had three unsold houses.
“The entire KiwiBuild programme is at risk.
“If KiwiBuild’s fund is spent covering houses that aren’t sold, there will be no money left to deliver the large-scale developments, such as the one announced in Porirua recently.
“KiwiBuild is balancing on a knife-edge. Mr Twyford cannot build the 10,000 homes a year he wants to without buying off the plans, but the more he uses this initiative, the more he risks burning through the money he has.”
After several years of work the Unit Titles (Strengthening Body Corporate Governance and Other Matters) Amendment Bill has huge support from the public, property and legal industry, but Housing Minister Phil Twyford has refused to progress the legislation, National’s Housing spokesperson Judith Collins and Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye say.
“There is a huge opportunity here to strengthen the existing unit titles regime in areas such as pre-contract disclosure, record keeping of body corporates and better management of conflicts of interests and proxy votes,” Ms Collins says.
“The main reason for the change has been concerns around a lack of transparency and inadequacy in long term maintenance plans, and a clearer understanding of the role of a body corporate manager.
“While the Minister supported reform, earlier this year he said he was too busy to draft the law. Mr Twyford chose not to support the legislation as parts of the Bill don’t align with officials’ recommendations and there was a need for additional provisions.
“National has worked alongside property and legal experts for several years to pull together more than 20 pages of legislation. The issues stated by the Minister could have been raised in Select Committee. The reality is no Bill goes to Select Committee in a perfect form.
“It is very clear this isn’t about the detail of the Bill, the Minister is more interested in playing politics and stalling a National Party piece of legislation than ensuring homeowners don’t end up with defective buildings, in disputes and with substandard information about what they are buying into,” Ms Collins says.
“These situations have hit young homeowners and vulnerable people more as they are more likely to afford apartments or townhouses. Mr Twyford has prioritised politics over people and their need for better housing,” Ms Kaye says.
“In Opposition Mr Twyford was vocal for his support for reform. Many in the sector will feel hugely let down and misled by a Minister who indicated this was a priority and is also signalling he will progress the results of the review when ‘priorities and resources permit’.
“This is a Government that campaigned on housing but isn’t following through.
“Some estimates have the apartment sector alone worth more than $50 billion. Underinvestment and inadequate long term maintenance plans can result in large unexpected bills for homeowners if defects occur and increases in body corporate fees.
“The Minister’s true colours have shone through. Mr Twyford has chosen to play politics instead of respecting the work that has gone into this and progressing this legislation that will improve the quality of housing for all. National will keep fighting hard to keep the pressure on this Government to prioritise this reform,” Ms Kaye says.
Housing Minister Phil Twyford has admitted his KiwiBuild housing scheme is not nearly as popular as he or the Prime Minister have claimed it is, National’s Housing spokesperson Judith Collins says.
“According to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, contracts for 3,375 houses have been signed between KiwiBuild and a developer. But Mr Twyford has been forced to admit there are only 388 pre-qualified KiwiBuild applicants, having gone through the process required to buying a KiwiBuild home.
“The demand for KiwiBuild homes is so low that already a ballot has had to be extended.
“The Government is delivering KiwiBuild homes largely by buying houses ‘off the plans’. The Minister has confirmed the potential risk to the Crown if houses aren’t sold is $4 billion in just the first three years.
“If Mr Twyford can’t sell the houses he has bought off the plans the Government will be forced to pay this money. This will easily blow his $2 billion budget and cause the whole scheme to come crashing down.
“With this kind of taxpayer money on the line, New Zealanders want to know what independent valuations were done before he signed contracts to buy houses? What analysis of market demand was undertaken?
“The Minister has been clutching at straws to keep Labour’s flagship housing policy on life-support. In order to solve Mr Twyford’s problem of demand he has changed the terms of purchasing a KiwiBuild home.
“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.
“Buyers can also purchase a home, fill it with tenants, keep the rent high and again, only pay 30 per cent of the rental income. There is no way KiwiBuild can monitor whether someone is living in their home or not. They can’t be peering through bedroom windows to check who’s living in the house.
“The whole scheme is complete shambles. Houses are too expensive and too small. The Minister isn’t building enough houses, he isn’t selling enough houses, and those few that are sold, aren’t going to the people that need them.
“KiwiBuild is a failed policy that was never properly thought through.”