Politics

Government progress on public housing target

January 29: The original version of this article gave a misleading impression about the Government’s progress on its target of building 1600 state and social houses each year.

While the number of state houses built as provided in story was accurate (273 out of 1000), it did not include the equivalent number of houses built by community housing providers.

Figures provided by the Housing Minister’s office show that 588 community housing places have been delivered so far, meaning 867 of the 1600 state and social houses have been built as of halfway through the financial year.

We are placing this clarification above the original article to make clear the most accurate figures. We have also amended the headline and excerpt for the story.

The Government built 273 state houses between July and December, but says it is still on track to complete the 1600 public housing places, most of which will be state houses. 

State houses are different from KiwiBuild in that the homes are not sold to prospective home-buyers. Ownership is retained by HNZ or the community housing provider and they are let out to qualifying tenants, who usually pay no more than 25 percent of their income.

Labour promised to build 1000 state houses a year when in opposition, a number which rose to 1600 public housing places - or 6400 over four years - in the 2018 Budget. Housing Minister Phil Twyford secured more than $4 billion for the plan, including $2.9 billion the agency borrowed on its own balance sheet. 

But information released to Newsroom under the Official Information Act show Housing New Zealand (HNZ) built 273 state houses in the period between July 1, 2018 and December 16, 2018. The Government says the 6400 figure is a four-year target and the 1600 a year number was a breakdown of the larger target, which it hopes to exceed.

Patrick Dougherty, HNZ’s general manager of Asset Development Group, told Newsroom the organisation will provide at least 1000 homes each year for the next four years, with the remaining 600 places coming from community housing providers. 

This means at least 727 will need to be built by the end of June for the Government to stay on target. 

Dougherty says the organisation has been ramping up house construction. 

“We’ve stepped up our asset development programme and we’re seeing the results with the delivery of more public houses,” he said.

HNZ built 1036 new homes in the 2017/18 financial year, up from 466 the year before. As of December 2018 it had 2099 homes under construction, 1704 in procurement, and 2000 in the early stages of planning. 

The news comes as Twyford faces criticism for missing his first KiwiBuild target of 1000 homes by the end of June. He now believes only 300 of those homes will be built. 

While the target for state homes is less concrete and has less political capital riding on it than the well-known KiwiBuild target, the apparent shortfall suggests an at-capacity construction industry is struggling to deliver the Government’s ambitious building plans. 

Twyford would not comment on the number of HNZ houses built so far. His office said the matter was an operational concern for Housing New Zealand. 

Prime Minister has confidence in Twyford

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was forced to reiterate her confidence in Twyford after opposition housing spokesperson Judith Collins called for him to resign over the Government’s KiwiBuild numbers.

Ardern, currently overseas attending the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, told media it was disappointing the Government was going to fall short of its first target.

“We set ourselves some goals, but ultimately, the true goal has been to address the housing issues we have in New Zealand, and that includes state housing, that includes community housing, that includes addressing homelessness, and it includes affordable housing,” Ardern said. 

“We set some goals around KiwiBuild and even if we’re falling shy of those, we are still building affordable houses, just not as fast as we want, and as many as what we want, as quickly as we want,” she said. 

She said housing was a complex issue and the challenges faced by KiwiBuild demonstrated how difficult the problem could be. She said the KiwiBuild programme was part of a 10-year programme that’s "also about homelessness, state housing, and community housing”.

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