Labour last week abandoned its Kiwibuild promise of 100,000 affordable homes. The PM started 2019 saying it was the “Year of Delivery” but it has become Labour’s year of betrayal.
The Kiwibuild promise was Labour’s flagship policy. It was repeated by Leader Jacinda Ardern and Housing spokesman Phil Twyford thousands of times. Our region was promised “at least 1,000” Kiwibuilds. The detailed policy specified that nationally 1,000 would be built in the first year, 5,000 in the second and 10,000 in the third, and 12,000 for the next seven years.
I have never seen a policy fail so badly or so quickly. Only 126 homes have been built nationally after two years and none locally. That’s 98% fewer than promised. If a housing company contracted to build 100 homes but only built two they would be done for fraud and bankrupted in the courts.
The Government has bought most of the Kiwibuild homes from existing developments. They are not selling due to basic errors like being in the wrong place, being poorly designed or being too expensive. Multiple Kiwibuild managers have resigned. Hundreds of millions have been wasted.
Our housing problems have been getting worse while Kiwibuild has been going to custard. The number of people on the waiting lists for Housing New Zealand has more than doubled from 5,800 when National left office to 13,000 now. Housing affordability in Nelson and Tasman has deteriorated significantly. Local rents are up by $50 a week.
I was pilloried as Building Minister in 2017 for questioning whether Kiwibuild would work. The idea that Government can build houses faster and more cost effectively than building companies was always flawed. I stated then that there was no quick fix to New Zealand’s housing challenges. The ten policies I was pursuing are not as sexy or simple as Kiwibuild but are the truthful answer.
Government needs to help Councils free up more land, enable inner city housing intensification, and help fund housing infrastructure. We need to increase competition and innovation in building materials. We need to train more building apprentices. We need to speed up and reduce the costs of building and resource consents.
We need to build more state houses and partner with organisations like Nelson Tasman Housing Trust and Habitat for Humanity for more social housing. We need emergency housing programmes for people in crisis. We need schemes like National’s Homestart that have helped over 60,000 nationally and 2,000 locally with grants of up to $20,000 to help with the deposit for people buying their first home.
Labour was bragging last week that they had no regrets about their Kiwibuild promises as it was clever politics that helped them get into Government. I despise such cynicism. I would rather lose Government telling the truth than win Government telling a lie. Dr Bryce Edwards, political scientist from Victoria University stated “Having won power in 2017 on the basis of promises like Kiwibuild it would be apt if the Labour led Government lost that power in 2020 because of their failure to deliver.”