Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern admits fixing housing crisis 'not easy'

The Prime Minister has admitted fixing New Zealand's housing crisis is "not easy", but says the alternative to KiwiBuild is to "do nothing".

Speaking to Newshub Nation on Saturday, Jacinda Ardern defended the Government's flagship housing scheme - despite scrapping its interim targets in January after Housing Minister Phil Twyford said they couldn't be met.

"What we've had to of course acknowledge through the KiwiBuild programme it's not easy, and I don't think anybody expected that it would be," Ms Ardern said.

"We absolutely acknowledge it is difficult and I think people understand that, because under the last Government they made no effort to build affordable houses at all - and so the alternative for us is to do nothing."

The Government has faced difficulty in attracting developers into the affordable housing market to produce KiwiBuild homes, the Prime Minister said, "which you'd understand, given we have this problem in the first place".

She said 280 KiwiBuild homes are currently under construction, with roughly 10,000 contracted over a 10-year period. In addition, she said 1900 public housing places had been established since Labour came into office, and 1000 state houses have been built.

"If we do nothing, we will not solve the fact that we are tens of thousands of houses short in New Zealand, and roughly only 5 percent of houses being built were for first-home buyers," she said, reflecting on the "crisis" she says her Government inherited.

But blaming the previous Government will not solve anything, the Prime Minister admitted: "For me, it's not about apportioning blame.

"Yes, KiwiBuild isn't happening at the pace we want, I've acknowledged about some of the issues we've faced, but the suggestion seems to be that we do nothing - I do not accept that."

Jacinda Ardern.
Jacinda Ardern. Photo credit: Newshub Nation

Another roadblock for KiwiBuild is New Zealand's skills shortage. Ms Ardern said the Government has to "build up that work shortage at the same time".

The Government set aside $2 billion for its flagship KiwiBuild scheme - buyers' money being recycled to build more.

"We as a Government are building more houses than any since the 1970s - I just want it to happen faster," Ms Ardern said.

Consents are at a 44-year high, Statistics NZ said on Friday. But in 1975 New Zealand only had 3 million people, and was consenting 13 new homes per 1000 Kiwis - compared to seven per 1000 today.

Housing consents.
Housing consents. Photo credit: Statistics NZ

The Prime Minister was also pressed on the construction sector in New Zealand, and asked if she's concerned about New Zealand construction business Arrow International going into voluntary administration.  

"I think, across the board, we should be concerned about the state of the industry, and look, the industry themselves acknowledge the problems exist," she said, adding that the Government intends to be a better buyer of services.

"I think it's about generally acknowledging that there has been a level of undercutting that has brought the construction industry into a place where it is incredibly fragile, that serves no one."

She said the Government intends to model the "kind of behaviour that we need to see across the board".

The latest ANZ Business Outlook survey found that the construction was the least optimistic in New Zealand. The Bay of Plenty was the most upbeat about future activity in construction, whereas Auckland waned.

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