Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says there will still be a Government building programme at the next election but she was not able to guarantee that KiwiBuild would be part of it.
KiwiBuild, the Government’s policy to build affordable homes for first-home buyers, is under severe strain after Housing Minister Phil Twyford admitted the Government would fall woefully short of its first year target of 1000 homes by July 1.
It is currently under an extended review and the minister was absent from a KiwiBuild-focused conference in Auckland on Monday, as he had to attend Cabinet.
Ardern was asked repeatedly by media at her post-Cabinet press conference if KiwiBuild would again be Labour policy at the 2020 election, as it was in the 2014 and 2017 elections.
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She declined to directly say that, instead guaranteeing that a Government build programme would remain, but leaving any further detail to be announced at the long-expected “reset” of the policy.
“We still will have a Government build programme, the rest I’ll leave to the reset,” Ardern said.
“We’re working on the reset, when we’ve got an announcement to make we’ll make it.
“We are not lessening the focus we have on rectifying what is ultimately a crisis in our housing sector.”
The lack of guarantee echoed a similar issue in recent months when Ardern and Twyford found themselves unable to guarantee the policy would still see 100,000 homes built.
Ardern said the Government was not giving up on housing and expressed confidence in Twyford as minister.
“He has done an incredible job. It’s an very difficult area of policy. No Government has had to do this before or has tried to do this before. And It’s not been easy. But as as a result we are building more than any Government has since the 1970s. I’m proud of that: It’s extended across transitional housing, Housing NZ, public housing spaces, and homelessness, and that’s thanks to Phil Twyford.”
Housing NZ’s build programme has increased rapidly in recent years, increasing by nine-fold between 2016 and 2019.
It’s understood there is frustration in the Beehive that the failure in KiwiBuild has polluted the public image around the rest of the housing portfolio.
A spokeswoman for Twyford declined to comment on the Prime Minister’s remarks.
Ardern said Twyford had brought a paper to Cabinet on Monday – hence his lack of appearance at the KiwiBuild conference – but it was not the “reset” paper.
The programme has been beset with issues ever since its establishment.
The head of the unit Stephen Barclay resigned in January following a bitter employment dispute with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, who took over responsibility for the unit after it was transferred from the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment.
The unit’s first year target of 1000 homes by July 2019 is set to be massively undershot missed with just 122 homes complete and 477 under construction.