New Zealand's government will invite companies, both domestic and overseas, to express their interest in setting up or expanding off-site manufacturing factories for KiwiBuild homes, a government construction program aimed at alleviating the nation's dire housing crisis.

Last November the government introduced the KiwiBuild programme, which targets the construction of 100,000 affordable homes for first-time buyers over 10 years, to deal with the country's homelessness rate, the highest among the 35 high-income OECD countries.

"One of the challenges for KiwiBuild is there isn't the scale and capacity in the construction sector to build the number of houses New Zealand needs," housing and urban development minister Phil Twyford said in a statement over the weekend.

"Since KiwiBuild launched in November, we've been approached by a number of highly capable international and domestic companies who are already using innovative methods such as off-site manufacturing to build quality houses quicker and more efficiently," Twyford said.


He didn't offer company names.

"High tech manufacturing of homes, as is done in Europe and North America, could allow us to build KiwiBuild homes at scale and pace," according to Twyford.

"Off-site manufacturing is significantly more productive so more homes can be built from the available workforce. It will help address some of the constraints the construction sector faces until we can train enough local builders."

The use of locally sourced and manufactured cross-laminated timber by Housing New Zealand, the government's social housing agency, has cut the construction time of their houses to as few as four months, down from at least 14 months, according to Twyford.

PrefabNZ, an industry body lobbying for greater use of prefabricated buildings, said earlier this year that off-site factory-built houses and apartments could see more than 7,000 additional homes built every year from 2020, Twyford noted.

"Off-site manufacturing will be a game changer for New Zealand housing," Twyford said.