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No denying Govt is ambitious on housing issues

Opinion Piece

New Minister Phil Twyford has made a bold start to the crucial housing portfolio with his announcement at the weekend that he might double the party’s original target of new state houses, and his confidence the Government can reach its ambitious overall target of 100,000 new homes in 10 years.

That would mean building 27 houses a day for the next decade. The Reserve Bank doubts this is possible and says the figure is more likely to be about 50,000 but, on TVNZ’s Q+A programme, Twyford said the bank’s estimate was based on incorrect Treasury advice.

He said he would also talk to his officials about possibly increasing the original target of 1000 new state houses a year to 2000, and put a stop to the “mass” sale of state houses.

Twyford said there would be a ballot system, at least in the early stages, for affordable KiwiBuild homes — with no means test.

That was because he did not want to set up a heavy bureaucracy, but it will mean that any New Zealand citizen or permanent resident can enter the ballot and compete with young families. On the face of it that seems to be contrary to the project’s purpose, although Twyford has a valid point about avoiding a bureaucracy.

One area of debate is the cost. Twyford puts the figure at $2 billion, which some economists doubt. The ANZ Bank says the new government will have to borrow $13 billion more than its pre-election estimates for all its policies, which would take the Crown debt to 23 percent of Gross Domestic Product.

In Auckland there is also the thorny issue of a lack of available land, and Twyford is meeting with growers to discuss their concerns over protecting fertile land.

Whatever the final figure of houses that can be built, Twyford has put a target on his back for the Opposition.

The housing situation proved to be a major Achilles heel for the previous government and Twyford wasted no opportunity to take them to task. Now the boot is on the other foot and National will be eager to strike back.