With the Minister of Housing and Urban Development Phil Twyford dropping the interim targets for KiwiBuild and the whole programme being criticised left right and centre is there still light at the end of the tunnel?
In November last year Twyford said over 100 manufacturers had responded to a government call for companies keen to help mass produce housing for KiwiBuild.
“KiwiBuild is not only about tackling the housing crisis and restoring the kiwi dream of homeownership to young families. It’s also about transforming how we build homes to reduce construction costs, deliver consistent high quality design, increase capacity of the construction sector, and get homes completed faster.
“Offsite manufacturing firms from across New Zealand and around the world have put forward their ideas to help us do that. The KiwiBuild Unit will now work through the proposals from the companies.”
Twyford admitted it would take time to get the mass production housing off the ground. But with all the criticism directed at KiwiBuild recently and the fact Twyford has failed to meet his own construction targets there’s no time like the present.
So what has happened to the offsite manufacturers who wanted to help the government realise its flagship policy?
According to KiwiBuild Unit spokesman Clint Smith 44 different organisations have now been shortlisted and asked to take part in the next stage of the process.
Smith says the companies will present their proposals to KiwiBuild starting in March and the process will run through until early May.
“KiwiBuild will then complete its own evaluation of the proposals and we will get back them by late June.”
He says KiwiBuild will then begin negotiations with the successful parties beginning in July and hopes to finalise the contracts by the end of the year.
“Offsite manufacturing can reduce construction costs, deliver consistent high quality design, increase capacity of the construction sector, and complete homes faster. It is expected that the OSM procurement process will lead to a significant increase in new homes available for KiwiBuild buyers over time,” Smith says.
But he says he can’t disclose who the companies are taking part.
“For reasons of commercial confidentiality, we are unable to comment on specific manufacturers, or provide any further detail on the proposals that have been put forward.”
Dr Arthur Grimes is a Senior Fellow at the Motu Economic and Public Policy Research Trust and Adjunct Professor of Economics at Victoria University. Last month he told www.interest.co.nz that if the government’s goal is to make housing more affordable it will have to build more of them and major housing projects take time.
“They need to be mass produced and that’s what they’re going to have to work on. I think this government and the last government had the right intentions. But housing takes years to build and they’ve been naïve in terms of the amount of them involved in housing developments.”
And the slow progress with KiwiBuild has been picked up by National housing spokesperson Judith Collins who says the government’s decision to drop its interim targets shows it’s in dire straits.
“Mr Twyford has tried to claim he’s only six months into a 10-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 under way 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.”
Only time will tell. But whether Twyford wants to scrap his interim targets or not, central to making KiwiBuild work is the mass production of housing.