By Pattrick Smellie
May 9 (BusinessDesk) - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern added further weight to speculation that the government is preparing to shift the goalposts on its KiwiBuild initiative to build 100,000 affordable homes within 10 years.
Speaking at the Just Transitions low-carbon economy summit in New Plymouth, Ardern pointed to evidence that first home buyers are returning to the housing market in greater numbers following a range of other government policies aimed at improving housing affordability.
"The market is fundamentally changing," she said. "When we came into office we stopped the sale of residential houses to foreign buyers. We closed tax loopholes. We know that had an impact. First home buyers now make up 24 percent of the market and it used to be 18 (percent), so things are changing."
She refused to be drawn on whether that meant the KiwiBuild target of building 100,000 affordable homes would be changed as the Cabinet awaits a KiwiBuild 'reset' package from Housing and Urban Development Minister, Phil Twyford.
Twyford has been giving mixed signals this week on how the policy might change, although he has said there are "no plans" to move the 100,000 target.
A string of problems with KiwiBuild has blunted its political impact, among them a slow start to new builds, lower than anticipated demand from new home buyers for KiwiBuild houses, doubts as to whether the ballot system currently being used is effective for allocating homes, the loss of the original unit's chief executive, and evidence that residential developments already underway are being counted as part of the initiative.
BusinessDesk understands that the ballot system will definitely be abandoned.
Ardern said the more favourable conditions for first home buyers "will be part of our thinking when Cabinet comes to make a decision on the KiwiBuild reset".
"Our goal is to get more first home buyers into the market, and it’s happening," she said.