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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been left defending a flagship promise to build 100,000 affordable homes in a decade after her administration only managed 47 houses during its first year in power.

Her Labour Party campaigned on the ambitious home-building policy, dubbed Kiwibuild, in 2017 as a means to aid first-home buyers amid soaring house prices and falling home ownership rates.

But the scheme has hit turbulence, with the country's housing minister last week revealing a 1000-home target for this July would be missed by nearly 700 houses - and that fewer than 50 homes had been built in the six months since the official launch.

Ardern on Tuesday defended the 10-year-old pledge, emphasising the policy was just starting out.

"I will not apologise for the fact we are building houses," she told reporters in Wellington.

"I just wish we were doing it at a much faster pace."

The $NZ2 billion ($A1.9 billion) program is made up of a combination of government-funded housing projects and private developments underwritten by the state and sold by ballot.

Housing Minister Phil Twyford says officials have struggled in trying to convince private developers to move away from building large homes to small, cheaper dwellings.

Contracts have, however, been signed with developers for about 10,000 properties down the line.

But while getting the homes built is a struggle, the opposition says there's a demand problem too.

Priced up to $NZ650,000 ($A619,480) in the most expensive centres - Auckland and Queenstown - and $NZ500,000 around the rest of the country, questions have been raised about how affordable the homes are.

So far fewer than 300 people have pre-qualified to buy through the scheme and homes in some upcoming developments are yet to sell.

“It’s incredibly embarrassing for the minister, who not only can’t reach his much plugged target of 1000 KiwiBuild homes, but the houses he has built are clearly not what first-home buyers want," National Party spokeswoman Judith Collins said.

New Zealand's largest city, Auckland, is among the most unaffordable in the world relative to local incomes, according to the Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey, while some of the country's other major centres are considered severely unaffordable.

The government last year banned buying of existing residential property by overseas investors in a bid to cool the property market.