Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford is no longer throwing his full support behind the target of building 100,000 KiwiBuild houses within 10 years of taking office.
Speaking to interest.co.nz, he couldn’t confirm nor deny whether the target would remain in the “KiwiBuild recalibration” he expected to reveal in mid-June.
Twyford said the target was something he’d been “looking at” and would say more about when he announced the reset.
“It’s like American nuclear ships in the 1980s. It’s a neither confirm nor deny situation,” Twyford said.
Told that if the 100,000-house target was staying, one would expect him to simply confirm this, he responded: “No, I wouldn’t read that in to it…
“I’m not going to reveal the policy decisions now.”
‘We’re looking at the entire housing programme’
Twyford in January got to work on a “recalibration”. While he said he’d scrapped the flagship programme’s targets for this electoral term, he remained committed to the overall 100,000-house target.
Asked what was the hold-up announcing the reset, which he in April told reporters wasn’t far off, he said he wasn’t looking at KiwiBuild in isolation.
“We’re looking at the entire housing programme, which is a big comprehensive programme that goes right from trying to house homeless people, right through to our growth agenda, the reform of the planning system, infrastructure financing and everything in between, and we’re taking time to get it right.
“I think we’ve pretty much landed it, but we’re in the pre-Budget period right now, so we’re going to do a little bit more work on it.”
Asked to specify where the hold-ups were, Twyford said, “It’s a big complex beast…
“We’ve got a programme of work that’s got six, eight different components. How they all interact with each other, the support we give to first home buyers, trying to work with developers to get them to build more affordable homes – we’re looking at a whole range of things.”
Heightened focus on rental affordability
“KiwiBuild was first designed at a time where people were very, very focussed on first home buyers in the expensive markets like Auckland. That’s changed now.
“One of the striking things about housing in New Zealand now is the stress on renters in a number of different parts of the country.”
Asked to clarify whether his focus was changing, Twyford reiterated he was looking at “the whole housing programme and where KiwiBuild sits within it”.
“We’re not going to step away from our commitment to help first home buyers, nor to increase the supply of housing and the supply of affordable housing.”
He acknowledged it was “a big concern” KiwiBuild had only delivered homes to 71 homeowners.
Shared equity and rent-to-buy schemes eyed
Further to the Welfare Expert Advisory Group last Friday suggesting the Government consider shared equity schemes, Twyford said he was “very interested” in scaling up shared equity programmes, which could even be used to help first home buyers get in to KiwiBuild homes.
He said there was interest among banks, non-profit community groups and iwi.
“There’s some really good thinking going on and we’re looking at how government can be part of that and how we might be able to help people scale up some of these programmes.”
Against a backdrop of the Group recommending the government get involved in rent-to-buy schemes, Twyford again mentioned how renters were in his sights.
“We need to provide more and better options that provide security of tenure for people who are renters.”
HUDA on track
In terms of progress getting the Housing and Urban Development Authority up and running, Twyford expected to have legislation introduced to Parliament by late-May/early-June, so the Authority could be established by October.
A second, more complex bill dealing with the Authority's special powers will be introduced to Parliament in a few months' time.
The aim of the Authority is to give central government the power to override local planning rules to build houses fast in designated areas. See this story for more on what's been proposed.
Twyford in the interview also addressed the Opposition's concerns around the criteria developers need to meet to have their work underwritten by taxpayers through KiwiBuild being too loose. Watch the video for more.