The Warehouse founder Sir Stephen Tindall has expressed interest in the Government's KiwiBuild 100,000 homes programme - and is questioning why New Zealand can't follow other countries that build homes for half the price of ours.
Asked to comment after Housing Minister Phil Twyford yesterday announced 102 bidders for pre-fab KiwiBuild homes, Tindall indicated that he saw it as a promising move and revealed that he had a fringe involvement in the industry.
"I have been giving some logistics advice on a confidential basis to one of the submitters but have agreed not to disclose their details," he said of one of the 102 tender parties.
While he has previously been involved in affordable housing through the Tindall Foundation, his interest in this case is strictly personal.
"Compared with the past, housing has become too expensive for the average couple and we need to combine talents to solve this issue," he said.
"My interest to assist our country is that I believe there is enormous potential for us to benchmark ourselves against the other more efficient countries who have proved you can construct houses for almost half the price that they cost here in New Zealand. Anything I can do to assist any party that has an ambition and the wherewithal to do this, I'm very happy to do," he said.
His previous involvement in affordable housing stretches back to the 1990s, when the Tindall Foundation brought together agencies including Habitat for Humanity and the Salvation Army to devise a body that could advance ideas to make housing more affordable. After research and planning, the New Zealand Housing Foundation was formed, with social and affordable housing specialist Brian Donnelly as executive director.
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Mike Hosking of Newstalk ZB has called KiwiBuild a "house of cards" but just this week, the NZ Super Fund revealed that like Tindall, it was also interested in KiwiBuild.
The $39.1 billion fund indicated it was "interested in exploring investment opportunities in large-scale housing infrastructure development and modular/pre-fabricated housing".
Twyford did not mention the fund in his announcement of 102 bidders but said parties from New Zealand and overseas had put forward their ideas.
Companies were asked to propose ways they could help KiwiBuild boost the housing supply, increase productivity and build affordable places for first home buyers, he said.
Twyford said yesterday that innovative offsite manufacturing was a key part of the KiwiBuild plan to enable innovation and scale to drive a real step change in the availability, quality and price of housing.