Phil Twyford defends Government purchasing seven unsold KiwiBuild houses

Phil Twyford has defended the Government purchasing seven unsold KiwiBuild houses and said he's "giving thought" to introducing a rent-to-buy scheme. 

Twyford, the Housing Minister, said in Parliament there had been no sales of the seven KiwiBuild homes on the market in Canterbury so far, and confirmed three have been bought by the Government.

"Three of those Canterbury homes have been bought by the Government and that's in the context of a contract with Mike Greer Homes that is delivering 104 affordable homes for first home-buyers."

Four other unsold KiwiBuild houses have been purchased in Auckland.

The Government purchased them under its 'underwrite' promise to the developer to either purchase unsold KiwiBuild houses outright or top up any shortfall should the developer sell them at a discounted price.

The underwrite is only triggered if the KiwiBuild houses do not sell within 60 days.

National's housing spokesperson Judith Collins asked the Housing Minister in Parliament why he underwrote already-built and marketed houses after officials had advised him that there was an oversupply of housing in Canterbury.

Twyford replied: "I'm advised that none of those houses were built at the time I authorised [the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development] to begin negotiations with Mike Greer."

National's housing spokesperson Judith Collins.
National's housing spokesperson Judith Collins. Photo credit: Getty

"That is a matter for the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development who are responsible for doing the demand analysis and negotiating the contracts with KiwiBuild suppliers."

Twyford defended the development of KiwiBuild houses in Canterbury, saying the region's New Zealand's second-biggest urban area with one of the "fastest growth trajectories".

"While housing is currently relatively affordable there compared to other main centres, it is rapidly becoming less affordable because of the high rates of growth.

"Our Government doesn't want to see Canterbury go backwards like so many other urban housing markets under [the previous National-led government's] rule over the last nine years."

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters came to Twyford's defence, claiming houses for sale are often on the market for six months or more.

Twyford responded: "Houses routinely take a number of weeks, even months, to sell in New Zealand - that's nothing unusual."

KiwiBuild key figures (nationwide):

  • 78 homes sold
  • 83 homes complete
  • 378 homes under construction
  • 7 homes for sale currently in Canterbury, no sales yet.

Twyford then pointed to the Government's action on public housing. He confirmed to Newshub that he's "giving thought" to introducing a KiwiBuy programme as part of the KiwiBuild reset.

"I've met with the Salvation Army and the Housing Foundation to discuss their proposals around KiwiBuy and I do think they've made some really useful proposals. We've been giving them a bit of thought as part of the KiwiBuild reset."

Rent-to-buy is one of a range of programmes that fall under the KiwiBuy campaign, touted as a solution to New Zealand's housing crisis, by countering rising rent prices through subsidising home ownership.

Twyford also highlighted how 1300 families and individuals came off the state housing waiting list and into permanent homes in the first quarter of the year.

Housing Minister Phil Twyford in Parliament.
Housing Minister Phil Twyford in Parliament. Photo credit: Getty

However, he acknowledged there had been an increase in the number of people on the waiting list. The housing register has increased by around 40 percent over the past year. 

"This is because they know they've got a Government now that cares - they're coming forward because they know we're committed to putting a roof over their heads," Twyford told Newshub.

"I expect these numbers to get worse as we approach winter as people realise the cold weather in substandard housing means their kids start to get sick."

National's social housing spokesperson Simon O'Connor blamed the spike on the Government's "misguided housing policy" which he claimed has "pushed the number of New Zealanders waiting for social housing to record highs".

"This Government continues to deliver nothing but disappointment."

He said the Housing Minister "likes to talk about how he is getting on with providing social housing but he is clearly not delivering on his promises".