13 Jun 2018

Twyford, Collins hammer it out over housing

8:29 pm on 13 June 2018

Housing affordability was the Achilles heel of the former government, and it continues to test the new administration.

Judith Collins and Phil Twyford.

Judith Collins and Phil Twyford faced off today both at select committee then during parliamentary question time. Photo: RNZ / Jane Patterson

There were fractious exchanges between Housing Minister Phil Twyford and his National Party counterpart Judith Collins at select committee and during parliamentary question time today.

The two flash points were a large waiting list for social housing and the government's flagship Kiwibuild.

Since the end of last year the waiting list for social housing has gone up from about 6000 to just over 8000. When questioned about that, Mr Twyford said that was the result of a rental crisis in the housing market, not new government policy.

Mr Twyford said tenancy reviews, under which people could lose their state house, had been temporarily suspended, but that's not what has driven the larger waiting list.

Ms Collins wanted to know what he was going to do about it.

"You've turned up here with the worst waiting list ever - it's come up under your watch, not down or even stabilised."

There were "no excuses", she said, if that continued to rise.

The government had put in the necessary funding to build thousands of new homes, replied Mr Twyford, saying he expected to be held to account by the opposition.

He also outlined his intention for Housing New Zealand to allow pets, and for people using drugs like meth to be helped with their addiction rather than thrown out.

Ms Collins asked Housing New Zealand chief executive Andrew McKenzie what the agency would do for neighbours who found themselves living next to anti-social tenants.

He told MPs the agency would work with police, or if needed, shift the neighbour.

Ms Collins wanted to know whether, like her, Mr McKenzie had ever lived beside a gang house.

He told the committee he had, going on to say the gang members had ended up in "another government house - jail".

Then it was on to Kiwibuild, also being spearheaded by Mr Twyford.

He said there had been 90 applications from developers to build Kiwibuild homes, which would now be put through due diligence by officials.

Some of the developments had stalled because of a lack of liquidity in the market, Mr Twyford said.

During question time, Ms Collins asked him about the possible consequences for taxpayers.

"Does it mean that he will take on the risk of any future issues such as leaky homes or building faults?"

The government was not offering a "blank cheque to failing developers", Mr Twyford replied.

"But we are incentivising the construction of affordable homes that party [National] absolutely refused to do."

Also out today was the latest Housing Affordability Measure.

It painted a grim picture, with worsening affordability at a national level driven by higher house prices in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Hamilton and Tauranga.

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