'I've just been proven right': National's Judith Collins laughs off KiwiBuild reset

National's housing spokesperson Judith Collins doubts the KiwiBuild reset will change anything, but some in the real estate industry are welcoming it. 

"I've just been proven right," Collins told Newshub on Wednesday, after the Government announced a long-awaited revamp of Labour's flagship housing policy. 

"It's a total failure," she said. "I'm happy to give advice to the Government on this at any stage. They've ignored everything I've said to them in the past."

The remaining KiwiBuild target, 100,000 houses in 10 years, has been dropped, with Housing Minister Megan Woods telling the media the new focus is "building as many homes as we can". 

"I think it's good that they've had a reset, but the problem is the reset isn't much better than what they had," Collins said. "This reset is a retreat."

"All we got from the new Housing Minister was a commitment to try harder. What are prospective first-home buyers supposed to do with that? "

In announcing the reset, Woods said the Government has tried to make it easier for first home buyers to access the market by bringing down what it considered were barriers. 

For example, friends and family will be able to combine their $10,000 First Home Grants - eligible for those who have contributed to KiwiSaver for three years - with their KiwiSaver savings, to make a house deposit. 

That's in addition to buyers of KiwiBuild studios and one-bedrooms only having to commit to living in the house for one year rather than three, before they can sell it. 

The National Party's spokesperson for housing, Judith Collins.
The National Party's spokesperson for housing, Judith Collins. Photo credit: Newshub

The Government's effort to get more renters into their first homes through the allocation of $400 million towards shared ownership schemes is being welcomed by some. 

Century 21 New Zealand owner Derryn Mayne said she has long believed that the maximum grants for eligible first-home buyers have been too restrictive. 

"We have existing Government-backed schemes that are working, but they just needed to be made more attractive to enable more renters to get on the property ladder."

The deposit requirement for a First Home Grant will be dropped to 5 percent from 10 percent, and the cap on multiple buyers will be removed. 

"Introducing more flexible rules as well as dropping the required deposits in both schemes to five percent goes a long way to achieving that," Mayne said. 

Real Estate Institute of New Zealand chief executive Bindi Norwell is also welcoming the deposit requirement drop, saying it will "significantly help a number of first home buyers". 

She also welcomed allowing family and friends to combine their $10,000 First Home Grants and their KiwiSaver to purchase a home together.

"Purchasing a home with friends and family appears to be becoming a more common option for individuals who cannot viably do it alone."

But she said she would like to see more properties built close to existing infrastructure such as public transport or amenities such as shops and cafes.

Real Estate Institute of New Zealand's Bindi Norwell.
Real Estate Institute of New Zealand's Bindi Norwell. Photo credit: File

Collins said there was "some merit in the approach".

However, she said the changes overall are pointless, and that the Government is ignoring the fact there is "little demand for these houses where they're built and in the configurations that they've been made". 

"If they had taken this watered-down policy to the last election they would have been laughed out of town."

The Housing Minister announced that the 461 KiwiBuild homes in Te Kauwhata, Canterbury and Wanaka that haven't sold yet will be released to the open market.

Collins joked: "If anybody would seriously like a ski chalet in Wanaka, boy does Megan Woods have a deal for you."

She said the main issue with New Zealand's housing market is the Resource Management Act (RMA) and the way the planning rules are constricted with red tape.  

"National invited Labour to work bipartisanly on this, but instead they set up a working group that won't report back until it is too late to make changes in this term of government."


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