Explainer: Is Labour 'fudging' state house numbers?

Labour's claim to have delivered around 8000 new state houses has been described as "pumped-up" by National, because fewer than half are newly built - but Labour is building far more than National did. 

Since Labour came to power in late 2017, 7934 additional public housing spaces have been added. The Government has a target of adding 18,000 new spaces by 2024 as a fix for the housing crisis, which has been driven in large part by lack of housing supply. 

But figures released to National by Housing Minister Megan Woods show that fewer than half of the 7934 additional public housing spaces are new-builds. The bulk are existing homes that have been purchased or leased from the private market. 

It's split between Kāinga Ora, the Government's housing and urban development delivery arm focused on providing public housing, and Community Housing Providers (CHPs), which provide an alternative to Kāinga Ora by helping vulnerable and low income people get a foot in the door. 

Kāinga Ora has built 4980 houses since 2017, but it also sold or demolished 3028, purchased 1165 existing homes, leased 595, and transferred 902 to iwi. It all adds up to a total of 2810 new Kāinga Ora housing spaces since Labour came to power. 

Because Kāinga Ora sold or demolished 3028 homes, the 4980 new-builds filled the gap, amounting to 1952 new public housing spaces delivered by Kāinga Ora. 

As for what CHPs have delivered, 1009 were new-builds, 895 were transferred to iwi, and 3220 were 'redirects', which is where CHPs arrange a lease with a property owner to house a family, who contribute 25 percent of their income to paying the rent, with the Government paying the rest. 

It adds up to 5124 additional housing spaces delivered by CHPs, twice as many new housing spaces as the Government's housing arm Kāinga Ora - but the bulk of them are not new-builds. 

The Government has also added 755 new transitional houses, which are not intended as permanent homes. They are only available to tenants for three to six months. 

Housing Minister Megan Woods and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Housing Minister Megan Woods and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo credit: Getty

So, how many new public housing spaces has the Government actually built out of the 7934 it has delivered since Labour came to power? The answer is 3716, fewer than half of the total amount. 

The figure is worked out by adding up the 1952 additional new-builds delivered by Kāinga Ora, the 1009 new-builds delivered by CHPs, and the 755 transitional houses.

National's housing spokesperson Nicola Willis believes Labour is "fudging" its public housing figures by "vastly exaggerating" the number of houses it has actually built.

"These figures prove the Government has been pumping-up its figures by buying and leasing thousands of homes in direct competition with first-home buyers and renters, potentially exacerbating the underlying housing shortage," she says.

"This is simply robbing Peter to pay Paul."

But National didn't do any better. Figures show that in 2010-2011 when National was in power, 67 percent of new public housing spaces were purchased rather than built, compared to 21 percent in 2019-2020 under Labour. 

"Nicola Willis is either misrepresenting the facts or is confused about what 'places' refers to which is surprising as this is how the provision of public housing homes has been referred to for many years, including under National which oversaw a net reduction of 1500 public housing places," Woods says.

"National has to do a lot better than sniping from the side lines, and come up with what their alternative plan is to fix the housing crisis it delivered to New Zealand."

When the Public Housing Plan 2021-2024 was launched in January this year, Housing Minister Megan Woods set an expectation that CHPs should be focussing on adding to the housing stock rather than arranging leases as 'redirects'. 

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

From October 1, no new redirects from the private market by CHPs will be approved, with some exceptions, because it doesn't add to overall housing supply. The change will only apply to new redirects. 

Bernie Smith, CEO of CHP Monte Cecilia, fears the change could force hundreds of families to remain homeless, because there simply isn't enough housing stock.

He says the change is expected to force over 200 families - totalling over 1000 people, 700 of whom are children currently in Monte Cecilia accommodation - to wait years in temporary housing for the Kāinga Ora build programme to catch up.

"When Labour came to power there were just over 67,000 state houses and a waitlist of 5000. Five years later, the state house numbers have grown by less than a 1000 while the public housing waitlist has soared to 24,000."

But housing consents are on the rise. Estimates from Stats NZ earlier this month showed the number of new homes consented in the year to May was at an all-time high of 43,466 - an annual increase of 17 percent. 

The data showed 1380 townhouses, flats and units were consented in May alone, the highest number since records began in 1990.