Dickens: Kiwibuild has been a cluster - the reset changes nothing

Author
Andrew Dickens,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 4 September 2019, 4:17PM
Jacinda Ardern and Minister for Housing Megan Woods have admitted flaws with the scheme. (Photo / NZ Herald)

So today we learnt that KiwiBuild is still KiwiBuild after the reset. 

There had been speculation that the name would go because it’s been so tarnished but the reality is the government couldn’t go that far in admitting what a cluster the scheme has been so far.  

But Megan Woods has been honest about the 100,000 Twyford target calling it overly ambitious and resulting in houses being built in the wrong places.  Which is why the white elephants in Te Kauwhata, Canterbury and Wanaka are back on the open market which is where they always belonged. Better late than never

However, the raft of changes announced today has left me confused about KiwiBuild’s mission statement. It’s reason for being.

The old scheme was always about increasing affordable housing supply for first home buyers.  But now with opportunities for second chancers, shared ownership schemes, the chance to flick a KiwiBuild place after just a year and the Green’s idea of rent to buy, the whole thing seems to be more open slather.

So let’s take the first line of their media release as their new goal. The Government wants to help more New Zealanders into homeownership.

So if your government policy puts more New Zealanders in the market, combined with population growth, both natural and through immigration, we come right back to the original problem of supply.

Megan Woods talks about that issue. She wants the government to be building as many houses as they can, as fast as they can and, critically, in the right places. In other words increasing supply.

Now the key to that is the newfangled Urban Development Authority which will be about cutting the red tape of councils to speed up supply, ensuring that the development can happen on brownfields and green and blunting the impact of NIMBYs.

But the legislation for the Urban Development Authority is not even going to be ready to be looked at until March this year and it will be lucky to see the light of day before the next election.

Then there’s also the ongoing issues of labour and the cost of building supplies that makes building a house in this country so ridiculously expensive which we’re still waiting for someone to tackle.

The whole thing has always struck me as being arse about face and it still is.

The housing shortage has always been a supply side problem and yet all the government’s measures have always been on the demand side and now even more so. Trying to get more New Zealanders into homes that don’t exist is like trying to put out a fire with gasoline.

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