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.