Labour owes Nelson and New Zealand voters an apology over the failure of their flagship Kiwibuild policy. It has been a cynical political con on one of the most important issues facing New Zealand.
The original Kiwibuild was for the Government to build 10,000 homes a year to be sold for $300,000 each for lower income first home buyers. Labour argued that the state could build houses far more quickly and less costly than any building company. The policy was scaled back just before the Election to 1000 homes in the first year, 5000 in the second, 10,000 in the third and 12,000 each for the next 7 years. This promise was repeated by Jacinda Ardern, Phil Twyford and local Labour candidates like Nelson’s Rachel Boyack endlessly and included in brochures to every Nelson household in 2017.
The scale of Labour’s failure has been eye watering. Far from the 1000 Kiwibuild homes promised in the first year only 33 have been built. The private sector in the same year built 33,000. The average price of the Kiwibuild Homes has been $540,000 and not the $300,000 promised. The policy was changed to allow buyers to earn up to $180,000 a year and was also altered to let them pocket the profits from a short term resale. The homes being built were not additional but just relabelled from existing developments.
Nelson and Tasman has been particularly short-changed. Labour promised our region would get our share of Kiwibuild homes (proportionate to our population). That equates to 20 in the first year, 100 in the second and 200 in the third. None have been built or are under construction.
Labours response to this mess has been to blame the officials they appointed to run Kiwibuild. The CEO is gone but is now suing the Government causing more costs for taxpayers. If a business promised 1000 homes at $300,000 each and delivered 33 at $540,000, they would be done for fraud.
The real answer to New Zealand’s housing challenges involves many actions and takes time. We need councils to free up land supply and put the infrastructure in so more sections are available. That’s what National did with the Special Housing Areas on sites like Richmond West, Nayland Rd in Stoke and Betts Carpark in the city where hundreds of homes are being built. We also need to streamline the building consent and resource process so it is more efficient. We need to attract more people to the building trades. We need more innovation and competition in building products. We need to partner with organisations like Abbeyfield, Nelson Tasman Housing Trust and Habitat for Humanity. We also need to expand programs like the Kiwisaver Homestart I initiated which gives grants of up to $20,000 for a home deposit that has helped over 1,500 people locally and 50,000 nationally get into home ownership.
The lesson from Kiwibuild is for politicians to do their homework properly on policy. And the public need to be sceptical of those promising simplistic and instant solutions to complex problems.