The increasing need for affordable housing

The increasing need for affordable housing

“Housing affordability is a big deal. It used to be the Kiwi dream that every New Zealander would be able to buy the house, the quarter acre pavlova paradise and that dream is diminishing.” This is what former Prime Minister John Key said when he was campaigning back in 2007.

Here we are 10 years on and the issue is still alive and kicking. That New Zealand is experiencing a lack of affordable housing is not disputed. There’s general consensus that we have an issue.

Alongside Sydney, Hong Kong, and Vancouver, Auckland is one of the most expensive cities in the world when it comes to housing. This makes it difficult for those on a modest income to purchase property and it increases societal inequality.

As it’s a multi-faceted problem, it requires multiple solutions. An affordable housing strategy includes the need for innovative and sustainable solutions including faster build times, off-site builds, better designs, and smaller properties. (All things an Eco Pod offers!)

But whose problem is it? Is it a government or private sector issue? Ultimately, it’s a problem for all of us that needs input from all sides if we are to solve it.

John Tookey suggests that government needs to drive the change and it’s naïve to think that leaving it to the free market, who only act in their best interests, will result in an increase in affordable housing. As Professor of Construction Management at Auckland University of Technology and head of Built Environment in the School of Engineering, Compute and Mathematical sciences, he is well versed across the subject.

The government is taking steps to address housing affordability but do they go far enough? The government’s Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment website states that housing affordability is a significant issue for many New Zealand families, the economy and government and that they have a comprehensive work programme in place to improve housing affordability. Prime Minister Bill English suggests changes to the Resource Management Act (RMA) are speeding up processes such as the issue of building and subdivision consents. Removing bureaucratic hurdles would save both time and money, but for it to play an effective role in the solution it needs to happen faster than what we are currently seeing.

Back in September 2013, the Auckland Housing Accord was approved. It states that 10 per cent of new homes in special housing areas have to be affordable housing suitable for first-home buyers on a modest income. Sounds good on paper but even with a quota of 13,000 new homes per annum it falls short of meeting needs. It also appears that the concept lacks the appropriate checks and balances to ensure the quota is being met.

Change doesn’t happen overnight, but it would help if the political process was nimbler and able to stay ahead of market needs, or at least keep abreast of them. With an election looming it’s a good time to review the various political parties’ stance on housing affordability.

The challenge housing affordability presents our communities requires an immediate solution, not one in 10 years’ time. Visionary thought and practical application are both needed to drive positive change.

If you’d like to delve a little deeper into this subject, we recommend reading the following:

Understanding Housing Affordability (Briefing paper, Arthur Grimes)

Cost Is Not Price: The Impact of Productivity and Design in Housing Affordability (Briefing paper, John Tookey)

The Mess We Are In: Why Private Firms Won’t Solve the Housing Affordability Problem (Briefing paper, John Tookey)

 The Growing Trend Towards Smaller Houses (Pod Concepts blog post)