National trains gun on Phil Twyford

National trains gun on Phil Twyford

Jane Patterson

After another tough week in Parliament, the National Party demanded the resignation of Housing Minister Phil Twyford over KiwiBuild.

Mr Twyford was under pressure last week over the Crown underwrite process.

He is now 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 that the housing market is quite different from when the original target was set.

Pointless distraction

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

“I am 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 that 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 on Thursday, May 9, 2019, 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.”

He told Parliament that 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.

Broken promise

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, as I am m utterly focused on getting the reset of KiwiBuild right.” Mr Twyford said.

National’s leader Simon Bridges said that 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.

“Sometimes getting things started is not easy, especially when you have got nine years of absolute paralysis and neglect,” Mr Peters said. “And it was never going to be easy, but I am 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,” he said.

Expensive Homes

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

Despite that, Miss Hystek said that 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.

-Published under a Special Agreement with www.rnz.co.nz

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Photo Caption:

  1. Phil Twyford (RNZ Picture by Richard Tindiller
  2. Judith Collins (RNZ Picture by Ava Tovey
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