Ardern’s Kiwibuild affordable housing program an epic failure

By Leith van Onselen

I noted previously how the New Zealand Labour Party’s promise to “build 100,000 affordable homes across the country” was already shaping up as an epic failure due to:

  1. the government changing the program from “building” to “facilitating” the delivery of 100,000 affordable dwellings, meaning that NZ taxpayers would merely ‘underwrite’ many dwellings that would have been built anyway, thereby protecting developer margins;
  2.  the government increasing the price threshold on a Kiwibuild 3 bedroom home to $650,000, which is unaffordable to more than half of Auckland households; and
  3. the government announcing a ridiculously high income cap of $180,000 for would-be Kiwibuild homeowners – a level that is more than twice the average household income – thus turning the program into “socialism for the rich”.

Last month, Interest.co.nz reported that KiwiBuild homes are likely to be beyond the reach of many first home buyers. Now, ex-Labour Party MP, Peter Dunne, has described Kiwibuild as “one of Edmund Blackadder’s cunning plans”:

So far, just 18 Kiwibuild homes have been built, and another 447 are on track for completion by July 2019, leaving a shortfall of 535 on its first year 1,000 homes target.

Put another way, a first year achievement rate of just under 47%. And there has been a subtle but clear rewrite of the Kiwibuild objective.

According to the Kiwibuild website, the objective is now the much more passive one to “deliver 100,000 homes for first home buyers over the next decade”.

So, no longer will the government build “100,000 high quality affordable homes”. And no longer does “affordable” mean $350-450,000, but $650,000.

Moreover, now the plan is merely to “deliver” 100,000 homes, which, in the best Blackadder fashion, means accumulating all the new homes already being built over the next 10 years by the private sector anyway, and dressing them up as Kiwibuild homes.

And by introducing the new qualifier of “homes for first home buyers” the government can better tailor its plans to fit with what the building companies are currently doing anyway, and market it all under the Kiwibuild label.

Any suggestion that Kiwibuild will mean 100,000 more houses being built than might otherwise be the case has long since vanished.

All that is happening is that existing plans are being branded under the Kiwibuild label, which is win-win for both the government and the industry.

Therefore, in reality Kiwibuild is a very clever strategy of the government doing very little, but making it look like a lot, and all the while being able to milk many photo opportunities for Ministers as the still uncommon achievement of each house being completed happens.

…when the marketing awards are next given out Kiwibuild deserves first prize as a cunning plan, well marketed, but delivering very little and changing not very much, while all the time leaving people feeling good about the government’s warmth and kindness. Not even Blackadder and Baldrick in their heyday could ever have been as devious.

Talk about an epic failure.

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