Housing team takes over from Twyford

Thursday 27 June 2019

Housing is fraught, complex and – as the Cabinet reshuffle reveals – a portfolio that is no longer considered suitable for a single minister.

By Miriam Bell

Beleaguered Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford had been mired in controversy over the underperforming KiwiBuild programme for months.

He has overseen a host of housing policy changes, including the introduction of the Healthy Homes minimum standards, the banning of letting fees, the start of tenancy law reform and the ramping up of Housing NZ’s build programme.

But it was the failure of KiwiBuild to hit the promised targets that Twyford became most associated with – and which sealed his fate in today’s Cabinet reshuffle.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that a ministerial team was now being put in place to advance the Government’s housing work programme.

Ardern says that while KiwiBuild has not progressed as well as they had expected, their ambition to build more affordable houses for New Zealanders has not changed.

“But it has become clear to me that the range of challenges in fixing the housing crisis are too great for one Minister.

“Therefore I am putting in place a team of senior Ministers to deliver the full breadth of our housing plan, from KiwiBuild right through to tackling homelessness.”

The new housing “team” will be headed by Energy and Resources Minster Megan Woods, who takes Twyford’s title of Housing Minister.

She will be responsible for delivering the Government’s house building programme which includes the long-delayed “reset” of KiwiBuild.

Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi, who is newly promoted to the Cabinet, will take on responsibility for public housing, including state housing and tackling homelessness.

While Twyford may have lost his sole charge responsibility for housing, he remains on the housing “team”.

Ardern says he will take the lead on urban development and the legislative changes needed to ensure more affordable houses can be built with the right infrastructure around them.

Twyford will retain his Transport portfolio and has also been given the role of Economic Development Minister.

Rounding out the housing “team” is Nanaia Mahuta, who was already an associate minister and who will focus on Maori housing, and Jenny Salesa who remains Building and Construction Minister.

In a statement following the announcement, Twyford says he is as frustrated as anyone else that they have not been able to deliver as many KiwiBuild houses as hoped and that he had put his all into it.

“But I look forward to continuing to help Megan Woods and the other housing Ministers, by focusing on the legislative and regulatory tools we need to facilitate affordable house building.”

He also says he is proud of what has been achieved in housing to date. “It’s been a huge job to turn around years of neglect but we are starting to see positive results.”

Meanwhile, it appears that the ongoing work on the KiwiBuild reset – which is now expected to re-examine the whole housing programme - will be delayed as Woods and Faafoi assess it and provide input before it is finalised.

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