KiwiBuild a ‘community trainwreck’


A year after the coalition Government took office, its flagship housing plan KiwiBuild is barely off the ground.

At this year’s Bruce Jesson Memorial lecture, Monte Cecilia Housing Trust’s Bernie Smith argued KiwiBuild’s flaws not only perpetuate housing unaffordability, but cause further intergenerational social problems.

Bernie Smith tells an interesting story.

After working in some of the most deprived communities in rural Australia and Papua New Guinea, Smith came back to New Zealand in 2016.

At that point, homelessness and housing affordability were among the worst ever seen in the country.

Just over a year later, he watched Jacinda Ardern and her party enter into a coalition Government with New Zealand First and the Greens.

Following through on their election promise, Ardern and her newly-minted Housing Minister Phil Twyford – a fellow Aucklander – announced their plan to ramp-up New Zealand’s much-depleted housing stock.

By July 2019, KiwiBuild targets plan for 1000 new homes on the ground.

After that, a target of 5000 new homes has been set for July 2020.

“This model will become a community train-wreck in three to five years.”

Labour-led Government dashes hopes

As chief executive of South Auckland based Monte Cecilia House Trust, Smith looked at the numbers eagerly.

He hoped the Labour-led Government and its promised influx of new homes, would help the hundreds of homeless and precariously tenanted lower income families in Auckland.

After all, Ardern promised to address child poverty, he said in his address at the Bruce Jesson Memorial lecture at the University of Auckland this week.

However, as more information emerged, Smith realised KiwiBuild wasn’t going to deliver what he and other Auckland community housing providers wanted for:

  • 92,000 households living in unaffordable rental situations
  • 36,000 households living in overcrowded conditions
  • 20,300 homeless

KiwiBuild great for middle class

Smith: “Over the 2017/18 financial year, Monte Cecilia – just one agency in Auckland – had 1349 children use or access its services, 50 percent of those children were under eight years old.

“Eighteen months ago we had three children who had just undergone cancer treatment, and a fourth child with brittle bone disease.

“The Ronald McDonald house was over-full and those children had no family home to go back to, so they came to Monte Cecilia.

“It’s no different this week or last week,” he said.

“KiwiBuild is great for middle class New Zealanders with higher household incomes.

But … KiwiBuild properties are not helpful to our working poor or to those in poverty because they’re totally out of reach and unaffordable.” Continue reading


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