Revealed: Kāinga Ora spent over $24m of taxpayer money in four years on its own office renovations

Despite thousands of state homes not meeting healthy homes standards, Newshub can reveal Kāinga Ora's spent millions doing up its own offices.

While Housing Minister Megan Woods says that's a good thing because it means the agency is growing, National doesn't agree.

Kāinga Ora's spent $24,354,759 of taxpayer money over the past four years on itself on office renovation.

The biggest spend ups were in the last financial year:

  • $230,661 went on signs
  • $829,797 on a complete fit-out and renovation in Christchurch
  • $5.5 million for a complete fit-out of the Newmarket offices
  • $12 million on a total renovation of its Wellington headquarters.

"I think New Zealanders will struggle to see why this Government is prioritising multi-million-dollar upgrades for swanky new offices," says National's housing spokesperson Nicola Willis.

But when asked how bad the millions of dollars on office upgrades looks, Woods had a different perspective.

"This looks very good. This shows an organisation that is being rebuilt over a four-year period from an organisation that had been scaled down into a flog off agency of state houses."

It's a change in tune from Labour when it was in opposition in 2016 and Housing New Zealand spent $3 million on an office upgrade.

"It's just not on really," said the party's then-housing spokesperson Phil Twyford.

While Kāinga Ora spends millions on itself, it admitted in its last annual report just 21 percent of its homes met the Healthy Homes Standards - meaning 54,000 homes failed.

"And yet housing officials are prioritising upgrades to its corporate offices," Willis says.

In a statement, Kāinga Ora told Newshub it spent $12 million on its Wellington headquarters because the organisation had "undergone significant growth", which required an "appropriate and fit-for-purpose office space".

The fit-out costs were "at the lower end of comparable public sector projects at $1600 per square metre".

"Houses don't magically build themselves and houses don't get retrofitted magically - you've got to have staff in order to do that," Woods says.

The office renovations are a tough pill to swallow for families who are desperately waiting to get into a home.

Keela, along with his partner and two children, is among the 25,000 households on Kāinga Ora's waitlist currently without a house.

They were all moved on Tuesday to a central Wellington hotel where Kāinga Ora puts up families waiting for a home.

"I've been on the waiting list for about three years now," he says.

He doesn’t want to be ungrateful, but he hates it. There's also nowhere to park and in a week he's got almost $1000 in parking fines he can't afford. Now his son has COVID-19.

"Since we got to Wellington, it's all been bad, it's all been shit."

While yes, Kāinga Ora do need offices to work out of, when the waitlist for a home is 25,000 households long - and nearly 80 percent of state houses don't meet the Government's own healthy home standards - spending millions and millions on new offices seem completely out of touch.