National blames MMP, minor parties for housing crisis

A National MP has blamed the former Government's partners for his party's failure to stop house prices rising beyond the reach of many Kiwis.

The median house price rose from about $320,000 at the start of 2009, shortly after National took power, to $530,000 when they lost the 2017 general election.

In Auckland over the same period, the median price went from $429,000 to $850,000, according to REINZ data.

The Labour-led Government's flagship policy to fix the unaffordability crisis, KiwiBuild, has come under fire after building only a few dozen homes in its first half-year of operation.

"[Housing Minister] Phil Twyford is a failed property developer that's tried to be a property developer using taxpayers' money," National MP Mark Mitchell told The AM Show on Friday.

"He said he was going to deliver affordable homes, and he hasn't... You've got a minister that's hopelessly failed."

Labour MP Kris Faafoi, appearing alongside Mr Mitchell, said it was "going to be hard", but KiwiBuild was just getting started - and compared it to The AM Show sports reader and former Blackcap Mark Richardson's notoriously unhurried batting style.

"You start nice and slow, but you've got to stick around and keep collecting to get there at the end. That's the way this is going to work."

He said National also found the housing crisis hard to fix. Mr Mitchell was quick to deflect blame.

"We did a lot in housing - we did a lot of work around the Resource Management Act (RMA). The problem with MMP is we had a partner that actually wouldn't allow us to make the changes that we wanted to make.

"This is where they should be focused - on the RMA. They should be focused on actually releasing more land. We had some very good housing policies that were beginning to work and get some traction."

Mark Mitchell and Kris Faafoi on The AM Show.
Mark Mitchell and Kris Faafoi on The AM Show. Photo credit: The AM Show

RMA changes passed into law in April 2017 after changes were made to satisfy minor partner the Māori Party, while United Future and ACT voted against.

A number of National MPs throughout 2016 and 2017 denied there was a housing crisis, before then-leader Bill English did a U-turn after the 2017 election, saying the crisis was "nothing new" and it was now Labour's problem to fix.

Mr Mitchell says Labour could start by getting rid of Mr Twyford.

"They need to switch Twyford out for a start. He's become blind to the actual policy he's tried to roll out, which has failed. What's the old saying about insanity? Keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, currently in Davos for the World Economic Forum, said that wasn't going to happen and she had full confidence in the Housing Minister.

According to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, 47 KiwiBuild homes have been completed, 236 are under construction and another 4047 have been contracted. More than 46,000 people have registered interest in buying one, about two-thirds of them in Auckland.