Housing Minister Phil Twyford says he is expecting the Government to build “far more” than the planned 100,000 KiwiBuild houses over the next 10 years.
Speaking to reporters after the release of a new housing stocktake report on Monday morning, Twyford was forced to defend the Government’s “lack of ambition” on its state house building policy.
The call came from one of the stocktake report’s co-authors, Shamubeel Eaqub, who reiterated his thoughts that the Government should be targeting 500,000 new KiwiBuild homes.
“If you look at the rate of build we have had since the 1980s, it has been too low and it has been too slow,” he says, adding that at least 30,000 new houses need to be built a year to get on top of New Zealand’s housing shortage.
When pressed about the Government’s lack of ambition in this area, Twyford joked that he was “so happy that for once I’m not the most ambitious person in the room,” before telling reporters that the government would actually build “far more” than 100,000 homes.
“I believe using the levers that are available to Government, the balance sheet of the Government to stimulate the building of affordable homes, more state houses building and an urban development authority that can undertake these ambitious, large-scale urban development projects, we will end up building over the new decade far more than the 100,000 Kiwibuild homes.”
Eaqub was also critical of the lack of detail on the KiwiBuild policy.
Twyford was not able to provide more detail than had already been announced, but did say more information would be coming “in due course”.
But he did let on that the Government is in the process of talking to market players about how it could buy and underwrite “affordable properties” off the plan in private developments.
He also revealed the Government has managed to find some extra Crown land where houses could be built that the National Government had not already bought.
He would not reveal any details, saying only he will make information available “in due course,” but says the land he’s looking into was private, as well a Crown-owned.
“We’re going to be acquiring land – [we’re] also going to be doing development projects with other land owners, council, iwi and other private investors.
“In many cases they aren’t developing that land. It’s just sitting there, they’re looking for partners.”
Government’s fiscal responsibility rules a ‘straightjacket’
Eaqub was also critical of the Government’s position on debt, calling its fiscal responsibility rules an unnecessary “straightjacket”.
Before the election, Labour and the Greens outlined the rules, which included reducing net crown debt to 20% of GDP and keeping government spending below 30%.
But Eaqub says when it comes to housing, the Government should be taking on more debt to solve the problem.
“The state of the current housing market as a cluster… you fill in the gap.”
He says, for example, the Government should be doubling Housing New Zealand’s (HNZ) stock over the next decade, and taking on more debt is the best way to achieve this.
“When it comes to HNZ specifically, we should be gearing that up a hell of a lot to try and create housing supply,” he says.
“My view [is that] the last decade has been the best time to borrow money – money is cheap and everyone is looking to lend you money.
“You’re a fiscal idiot if you don’t borrow money when interest rates are at the lowest level in a century.”
Asked if the Government is constrained by the social responsibility rules, Twyford says industry capacity also has to be accounted for.
“It’s not just the fiscal limits, there is also a question about industry capacity – [there are] a whole lot of other things which are currently constraints we’re trying to dismantle so we can up the build.”