Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford spent a spiky 45 minutes at a parliamentary select committee hearing this week defending the slow progress being made on the Government's showcase policy, KiwiBuild.
So far, just 119 of the ultimate total of 100,000 homes have been built and a few have been bought by the Government under an underwriting scheme that protects developers from the cost of holding homes that failed to sell.
This week, it also became clear that cash buyers are emerging for KiwiBuild homes that voters may have assumed would assist struggling first-home buyers into a house.
A policy "reset" is imminent in recognition of this sputtering start and the media is happily speculating on Twyford's future in the portfolio in the upcoming Cabinet reshuffle.
For National's shadow housing minister, Judith Collins, KiwiBuild is the political gift that keeps on giving and has led to the inevitable.
To Twyford's rescue, although arriving at a pace perhaps too glacial to assist him in his current political plight, is the recently introduced Kaiinga Ora Homes and Communities Bill.
Never heard of it? Well, its obscure name masks proposals for one of the most powerful new urban planning devices to be unleashed on an unsuspecting New Zealand public.
Discussed in policy circles for at least the last decade, the bill is the first step in the creation of a new kind of regulatory battering ram, called an urban development authority (UDA).
As acronyms go, UDA is as bland a disguise as the name the legislation now bears.
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What it describes is a central government instrument for fast-tracking the kinds of developments that visionaries believe a city needs for the future and which present-day ratepayers have a tendency to vigorously oppose.
As the regulatory impact statement for the UDA legislation says: "The legislation will enable more efficient use of urban land, which would benefit future residents but could adversely impact current residents and property owners.
"These groups are most likely to be adversely impacted by this legislation and the least likely to support the range of powers."
A more political document would say that these people are also by far the most likely to vote in a general or a local body election.
They are the present blocking the future, and the UDA legislation is the hammer that would be used to bend them.
A UDA would have powers to do an end-run around Resource Management Act consent processes, local governments' gazetted plans, and other impediments to large-scale urban redevelopment. Compulsory land acquisition is among the powers contemplated.
The need for such a blunderbuss reflects the toxic combination of unaffordable housing, weak public transport and other public infrastructure, and everything taking longer than is required to meet the needs of a fast-growing population.
"This is driving the need for the re-development of existing urban areas at a scale and pace that New Zealand has never had to support before," the regulatory impact statement says.
"Successful modern cities are becoming increasingly centred around nodes of mixed use social and economic activity.
"Given that our cities were originally designed to distinguish between the places where people work and the places where people live, changing that paradigm requires a process of significant urban transformation, in particular by identifying and rectifying land-use patterns and infrastructure deficiencies that constrain urban performance," the RIS says.
Likewise, the city needs to be able to grow beyond its current boundaries with "well-designed greenfield development" to allow cities like Auckland to grow both up and out.
As Twyford told the select committee hearing, the UDA legislation is at the heart of the Government's ability to deliver KiwiBuild.
"We are right at the beginning of a large-scale government building programme designed to increase the supply of affordable housing", with UDAs being "the Government's delivery agency" for that programme.
What Twyford cannot say, however, is how achingly slow that ramp-up will be. The UDA bill currently before Parliament only allows the agency to be established. Legislation giving it super-powers won't emerge before next year.
That implies that by the time any UDA is in place and able to act, it will be almost time for the next general election.
As is so often the case in politics, policy-making has occurred in reverse.
In an ideal world, legislation to allow UDAs to support mass home-building would have been passed before attempting to get that building under way.
However, KiwiBuild was an easy policy to sell to voters and came with great expectations of immediate action on an urgent problem. It's unlikely that promising complex urban regulatory reform with a dash of central planning would have had quite the same political impact.
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