Megan Woods to correct the record after misleading Parliament over $3.8 billion Housing Acceleration Fund

Housing Minister Megan Woods will correct the record after misleading Parliament by telling National MP Nicola Willis to read-up on documents that haven't been published. 

Willis, National's housing spokesperson, criticised the Government last week for producing a "one page back-of-the envelope" fact-sheet on its $3.8 billion Housing Acceleration Fund.

Willis asked Dr Woods in Parliament why she had "failed to publish anything about how the fund will work beyond this one-sided piece of A4 paper", given she has more than 2000 housing officials working for her.

Dr Woods said there was a "substantial body of work" behind the fund, which had been "proactively released", and she suggested Willis read it. 

Dr Woods said: "All the documents that sit behind this, in a substantial body of work that sits behind this work, have been proactively released. I suggest the member reads them, because she's clearly confused."

But it appears the Housing Minister was confused.

Her office confirmed to Newshub the documents she was referring to have not yet been released. The documents are expected to be published once they have been through the consultation process in the next few weeks.

Dr Woods' office confirmed to Newshub she will correct the record in Parliament.

Willis told Newshub her office also inquired about Dr Woods' statements in Parliament last week, after being unable to find the documents. Willis said her office has received no reply or acknowledgement of the request.

"This is very disappointing from minister Woods," Willis told Newshub.

"I look forward to her correcting the record in Parliament. Hopefully she will learn from this mistake and be more careful in future. Perhaps she'll also be a little slower to accuse me of confusion when it's now pretty clear where the confusion really lay."

Housing Minister Megan Woods.
Housing Minister Megan Woods. Photo credit: Newshub / Zane Small

The Housing Acceleration Fund, intended to help pay for roads, pipes and other infrastructure, was announced early last week among a raft of tax changes and deposit assistance eligibility tweaks to try and bring down house prices.

Dr Woods said after talks with local councils, it was clear investment in "critical but costly infrastructure" - such as roads and pipes - was seriously lacking, and no one had been prepared to step in and fill the expensive gap.

"Before houses can be built - particularly at the scale we need them - this groundwork must be built and paid for. It's a stumbling block that's stopped developers and councils in their tracks," she told reporters last Tuesday.

Dr Woods said that's why the Government is introducing the multibillion-dollar fund to boost infrastructure on Government-owned land and in areas where councils can demonstrate both housing need and willingness for momentum to increase new-builds.

But Willis is concerned about the lack of detail. The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development website has an A4 PDF document available to read about it, which Willis says is not good enough considering the significant amount of money.

National's housing spokesperson Nicola Willis.
National's housing spokesperson Nicola Willis. Photo credit: Newshub / Zane Small

"Labour's $3.8 billion fund to increase the supply of houses hasn't been signed off by Cabinet and amounts to nothing more than a one-page back-of-the-envelope word-salad, with no criteria, targets or start dates," Willis said.

"This is incredibly worrying given Labour has been in Government for three-and-a-half years, it's had plenty of time to work out the details. What's worse is that any house building resulting from the fund won't start until 2022 at the earliest.

"Where is this Government's sense of urgency?"

Dr Woods said in Parliament she will be taking the final design and criteria for the fund to Cabinet by the end of June, but in-principle decisions have already been made, and work is "well underway" to understand what projects could be funded.

Dr Woods said in planning the fund, the Government didn't want to repeat the failings of the previous National Government's Housing Infrastructure Fund, which was set up in 2016 as loans rather than grants

"One of the things that we were most interested in about this, and we were keen not to replicate, was that this funding was never tied to any agreement by councils or developers to develop the land for housing," Dr Woods said.

"One of the things that we did note: this was launched in 2016, the first project for the fund was announced a year later, in July 2017, with the first funding approved another year later, in June 2018, and not a single project has been completed to date."