Government can build more than 27 houses a day: Twyford

Experts from the Reserve Bank through to AUT construction management professor John Tookey are struggling to see how the government can hit its KiwiBuild construction target of 100,000 new homes in 10 years – while  Infometrics chief forecaster Gareth Kiernan says that given Auckland's  undersupply of homes, estimated at 42,000, the initiative won't move the dial on Auckland's average $1 million selling price even if it does.

But Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford is confident the government can build more than 27 houses on average per day – the necessary number to hit 10,000 a year.

"I know expectations are high, but we make no apologies for being ambitious about fixing this problem. We have a social and economic disaster in this housing crisis. It needs an ambitious response," he said on Q+A.

When questioned by Q+A’s Jessica Mutch on doubts expressed by the Reserve Bank about Labour’s plans (the central bank projected 5000 per year), Mr Twyford said, "The Reserve Bank commentary was made on the basis of some Treasury advice that I don’t believe was based on all of the information to hand. They made certain assumptions without looking at all aspects of our policy. For example, we know workforce constraints are a big issue."

Mr Twyford says it will take three years for the project to hit its stride. He sees 16,000 new homes being built in the first three years, with the balance in the remaining seven.

He says it is possible to build "affordable" standalone terrace houses for $600,000 each.

The minister points to his government's can-do approach, which has seen rapid implementation of policies like its foreign buyer ban. However, he still remains short on detail for the logistics of KiwiBuild. The market is yet to believe. Shares in Fletcher Building, whose residential unit would almost certainly have to be central to KiwiBuild, continue to languish (though admittedly the company has issues on several fronts).

On top of his Kiwibuild plans, Mr Twiford also told Q+A he would like to build double the number of state houses promised in opposition.

"So we said while we were in opposition, that we wanted to deliver a net increase of at least a thousand a year, and we said we wanted to be more ambitious than that. I’ve asked officials to look at how we can double that and build 2000 extra state houses a year, and I’m looking forward to their advice coming back to me on the options on that," he said.

The housing minister also reiterated a commitment to "stop the mass sell-off of state housing’ but qualified his pledge by adding, "You’d be crazy not to sell the odd one here and there to maintain and upgrade the portfolio."

Watch the full interview here.

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