Collins grills Twyford over Kiwbuild guarantees

Judith Collins and Phil Twyford. Photo credit: The AM Show

With a name like Kiwibuild, you may be forgiven for thinking that the project has something to do with building houses. This was the promise; that the government would build 100,000 new houses in 10 years, starting with 1,000 in the first 18 months, and ramping up to 10,000 a year. We already know that the project is not going to get there, but Jacinda continually defends it, basically saying that no one else has tried to do this and at least they are doing something about housing, rather than sitting on their hands.

Well, maybe not. If Judith Collins is right, it seems that, just to make the numbers look good, houses that were already under construction in the private sector are being brought under the Kiwibuild umbrella. quote.

National Party MP Judith Collins has produced further examples of homes she claims were already under construction when they were brought into the KiwiBuild programme.

Ms Collins took aim at the Housing Minister Phil Twyford in Parliament today over the Government’s underwrite guarantee of KiwiBuild houses, which she says were in some cases already built and clad when they were signed off.

Last week Ms Collins she asked him about houses in the Huapai development in north-west Auckland and why he included them in his KiwiBuild figures, even though they were all but built already.

And she put forward further examples in the House today.

“Why did he approve a Crown underwrite to build houses in Marshland, Christchurch, in November 2018 when council records show these houses were already under construction in April 2018 – seven months before he signed the Crown underwrite?” end quote.

Let me get this straight. These houses were already substantially completed, but were brought under the Kiwibuild banner, so that the developers got government guarantees on houses that already existed? quote.

“Why did he approve a Crown underwrite last November to build houses in Somerfield, Christchurch, when council records show the houses were built and cleared last September?”

The Crown underwrite, signed off by Cabinet in August last year, means taxpayers would have to foot the bill for any losses incurred by private developers over unsold KiwiBuild houses.

end quote.

The developers must be laughing all the way to the bank. They have already built the houses, and now the government has stepped in, slapped a Kiwibuild sticker on them and all the risks around selling them now lie with the taxpayer. quote.

Mr Twyford said he was aware of just four underwrites approved while construction was underway.

“The expected net cost to the Crown of these underwrites is zero. The homes are valued at $26 million or 4 per cent of the total number of underwrites and almost 0.5 per cent of total KiwiBuild homes.”

But Ms Collins took another swing.

“Why has the underwritten already-built, three bedroom, one bathroom houses in Westpark, Rangiora, selling for $480,000 while Mike Greer homes are advertising neighbouring three bedroom houses with an extra bathroom and a larger floor plate on their own website for $20,000 less?”

Newshub. end quote.

Phil Twyford ought to know by now that Judith Collins does her homework. As Kiwibuild is supposedly all about providing affordable homes, this example is shameful indeed.

Kiwibuild, from the start, has been the gift that keeps on giving… to National, and in particular, to Judith Collins. Taking the risk away from a developer while they give nothing in return is not a good use of taxpayers money. Twyford may glibly say that he expects the underwriting costs to be zero but he also expected people to be fighting over Kiwibuild houses, so much so that they created a ballot system. Now that few people actually enter the ballots, can he really say that there is no taxpayer money at risk over this? I don’t think he can.