Ki­wiBuild on life sup­port

The Northland Age - - Local Life / Opinion -

Labour’s flag­ship hous­ing pol­icy, Ki­wiBuild, was an­nounced in 2012 to much fan­fare. It was go­ing to solve New Zealand’s hous­ing woes. Labour promised it would build 10,000 homes a year by the end of its first term, a big prom­ise con­sid­er­ing when Labour was last in gov­ern­ment it promised to build 1600 houses in Hob­sonville over six years. Not only were they never built, Labour never even got as far as gain­ing con­sents.

Labour first an­nounced Ki­wiBuild six years ago, when it was in Op­po­si­tion. Since be­com­ing the gov­ern­ment, Min­is­ter of Hous­ing Phil Twyford has con­sis­tently walked back the scheme as its pop­u­lar­ity plum­meted. Last month one of the first bal­lots for a Ki­wiBuild home had to be ex­tended. That’s be­cause the pol­icy hasn’t been thought through. Some houses in the de­vel­op­ment had re­ceived no bids at all.

The min­is­ter has been so fo­cused on an­nounc­ing Ki­wiBuild devel­op­ments to give his scheme some cred­i­bil­ity that he hasn’t checked whether the de­mand ex­ists for prop­er­ties with two be­d­rooms at the price point he has set. Mr Twyford isn’t lis­ten­ing to New Zealan­ders. Eighty per cent of Ki­wis who have reg­is­tered for Ki­wiBuild want a three- or four-bed­room home.

There is a risk that fix­ing prices through a bal­lot will cre­ate lot­tery win­ners by sell­ing the house be­low mar­ket price, or the gov­ern­ment will be forced to un­der­write houses it can’t sell.

This looks likely con­sid­er­ing the price for a Ki­wiBuild home con­tin­ues to climb. Of­fi­cials have es­ti­mated that a first home buyer house­hold would need to be earn­ing $114,000 a year to pur­chase a $500,000 Ki­wiBuild house, but the me­dian house­hold in­come is $25,000 less than this.

Mr Twyford has been forced to ad­mit what these num­bers show — that the scheme isn’t for low­in­come fam­i­lies, but this has only hap­pened after the gov­ern­ment cre­ated an ex­pec­ta­tion that hun­dreds of thou­sands of New Zealan­ders were go­ing to get ac­cess to a gov­ern­ment-pro­vided home, which is sim­ply not go­ing to hap­pen.

Ki­wiBuild has be­come an un­tar­geted lot­tery, cost­ing bil­lions of tax­pay­ers’ dol­lars, but isn’t mak­ing a dif­fer­ence to the lives of those who need it most. Na­tional is com­mit­ted to help­ing more New Zealan­ders into houses, but gov­ern­ment sup­port should be tar­geted at those who need it most, and should come with an obli­ga­tion for peo­ple to help them­selves.

Labour has had nine years in Op­po­si­tion to come up with a com­pre­hen­sive hous­ing pol­icy. If it had put the work in then, maybe its hous­ing pol­icy would be vastly dif­fer­ent. It has ar­gued that it is of­fer­ing hous­ing sup­port to Ki­wis on a range of in­comes, but in re­al­ity the only peo­ple who can ac­cess that sup­port are those on mid­dle to high in­comes.

Na­tional’s plan was bet­ter. By in­creas­ing the over­all sup­ply of hous­ing in gen­eral, first home buy­ers on low in­comes could use the Ki­wiSaver, HomeS­tart and Wel­come Home loan schemes to get a de­posit to­gether and buy their first home.

Mr Twyford’s Ki­wiBuild pol­icy is strug­gling to stay afloat.

"Na­tional is com­mit­ted to help­ing more New Zealan­ders into houses, but gov­ern­ment sup­port should be tar­geted at those who need it most ... "

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