9 May 2019

Housing Minister Phil Twyford refuses calls for resignation over KiwiBuild

9:29 pm on 9 May 2019

After another tough week in Parliament, the National Party is calling on Housing Minister Phil Twyford to resign over KiwiBuild.

 Phil Twyford

Housing Minister Phil Twyford is under fire from the National Party. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller.

Mr Twyford was under pressure this week over the Crown underwrite process. Now he's facing persistent questions about whether he will stick to the long-held target of building 100,000 KiwiBuild homes in 10 years - a promise he staked his job on.

So far just 80 homes have been built.

Ministers are starting to lay the groundwork for a target reduction, suggesting the housing market is quite different from when the original target was set.

Economist Shamubeel Eaqub said in its current form KiwiBuild was a pointless distraction.

"I'm not optimistic that we will see a big reset but I think we need a fundamental repositioning of KiwiBuild if it is to succeed. In its current form it is doomed to fail," he said.

Mr Eaqub said the government should consider renting the houses out instead, or redirect the funds into social housing, for which more than 10,000 families were on the waiting list.

In Parliament today, Mr Twyford once again faced off against National MP Judith Collins, who asked him if the government was willing to commit to the 10-year target "as stated in the Speech from the Throne".

Judith Collin

National Party Housing and Urban Development spokesperson Judith Collins Photo: RNZ / Ana Tovey

He told Parliament there had been no change to that target since then.

"Cabinet would consider the KiwiBuild reset in June and it's inappropriate for me to speculate on what Cabinet may or may not decide.

"What has changed is that the housing market and the program need to respond", he said.

Ms Collins then asked him whether he should keep his job given his statement to media last year offering to stake his job on its success - "and if he does, has he offered his resignation to the prime minister?"

"I have not," replied Mr Twyford, "as I'm utterly focused on getting the reset of KiwiBuild right".

National's leader Simon Bridges today said the refusal to recommit to the target ahead of the reset was a broken election promise, and also called for the minister to resign.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters was happy to state that the government would reach its target - and more.

Winston Peters

Winston Peters. Photo: Ana Tovey / RNZ

"Sometimes getting things started is not easy, especially when you've got nine years of absolute paralysis and neglect," Mr Peters said. "And it was never going to be easy, but I'm very confident we'll do a whole lot better over the next ten years with this sort of drive and impetus and commitment than 100,000 homes."

Mr Twyford was asked what he thought of Mr Peters' optimistic view of the future targets.

"I like the way the deputy prime minister rolls, I like his gung-ho support for our housing policies."

A Wanaka KiwiBuild home buyer Renee Hystek said the current homes were very expensive and many people could not afford them.

Despite that, Miss Hystek said since her family moved in, she had got to know her neighbours for the first time in nearly a decade of living in the lakes district town, and it was a relief not to face steep annual rent hikes for her old, cold, damp flat.

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