Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern defends KiwiBuild prices

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has defended the price of KiwiBuild homes after criticism the homes are too expensive.

Families moved into the first KiwiBuild homes on Saturday October 27, but shortly after questions were raised about the income levels needed to service a mortgage on the $650,000 properties.

National Party housing spokesperson Judith Collins took aim at the people buying the homes, suggesting they didn't need "taxpayer support" for housing.

The comments deepened into a spat between her and Housing Minister Phil Twyford, after he claimed she had bullied the new home owners and she in turn claimed he had defamed her.

Ms Ardern didn't mention Ms Collins' actions this Saturday, but she told Newshub Nation KiwiBuild wasn't about bankrolling housing.

"It's not about subsidising housing, but about providing more supply in the housing market where builders and developers just were not producing houses," she said.

"So from memory roughly, 5 percent of houses being built in that market were what you would call something adequate for a first-home buyer. We're trying to turn that around. We're intervening in the market by building what people are looking for."

Jacinda Ardern and Phil Twyford with new home owners.
Jacinda Ardern and Phil Twyford with new home owners. Photo credit: Newshub.

Ms Ardern rejected claims from the Salvation Army that KiwiBuild was "middle class welfare", saying it's a problem that the middle class cannot afford to buy a home in the first place.

"It's part of our psyche, the idea of home ownership," she said. "The fact that people who consider themselves to be in the middle haven't been able to afford to purchase a home, we should want to turn that around - and I don't apologise for that."

Auckland Action Against Poverty has called KiwiBuild "part of the problem, not the solution" and Monte Cecilia Housing Trust chief executive Bernie Smith called it a "community train wreck".

Ms Ardern did admit more can be done in the area of housing though, and KiwiBuild is just the start of a larger programme.

"I hark back here to something that Michael Joseph Savage first said when we first started building state houses under that Labour Government," she said.

"He said we don't claim perfection, but we do claim a considerable advancement on where we have been in the past. And I say the same for us.

"It's not perfect - we've had 12 months, but already we're ramping up a building programme that I think will really pay dividends and make a real difference."

Ms Collins took to Facebook after the interview to call Ms Ardern's mentions of Mr Savage a "PR fail".