Prime Minister Bill English says the government is not ripping off Labour policy by planning to spend billions of dollars building new homes in Auckland.
The government will spend at least $2.2 billion building 13,500 new social houses for low income earners and about 20,600 homes to be released to the market.
The homes will be built on Crown land in what the government says is the country's biggest social and affordable housing build in six decades.
Opposition leader Andrew Little responded by labelling the programme an "embarrassment" compared with his party's 100,000 new home policy, which includes 50,000 in Auckland during the same period.
But Mr English defended the government plan on Three's The Nation on Saturday, saying it had been a long time in the making and was not just a rushed, vote-grabbing announcement ahead of September's election.
"It's not a rip-off. The Labour Party promised to build 100,000 houses somewhere, somehow, no one quite knows where," he said.
"Our task has been to, as we set out three or four years ago, to rebuild the state housing stock. And that's what we are setting out to do."
The debate comes as the shortage of affordable housing in Auckland and around the country has increasingly become an an election issue.
Labour's housing spokesman Phil Twyford, also appearing on The Nation, said the government's plan was a "huge let-down" because maybe only as few as 4500 of the 20,600 homes to be released to the market over the next 10 years would be classed as affordable.
"They've already built half of those, so there's only 2000 new ones in the announcement," he said.
He said National's plan lacked ambition because it only planned to build houses on land already owned by the Crown.
By contrast, Mr Twyford said Labour would work with Auckland Council, Maori tribe Ngati Whatua and investors to, if necessary, buy private land for development.
This included building large urban development projects around Auckland railway network, such as in places like Henderson, Manukau, Mt Wellington, Onehunga, Panmure, Avondale.