What role should state housing construction play in addressing New Zealand’s issues with housing affordability and housing quality?

Starting in the 1930s, state housing has played an important role in shaping New Zealanders’ expectations around housing. As Oliver Chan observed in a January article for The Spinoff, successive governments backed the idea that the state should guarantee decent housing for all. Unlike in the UK, state housing never accounted for a majority of new housing construction, but it still played a significant role in the postwar years.

Moreover, as John P showed in another post, we’ve built hardly any state homes since the 1980s. So: should we do more, and how?

Securing affordable, decent-quality housing for all depends more on the total quantity of homes that we build, rather than the number of state homes we build. The government was building more state homes in the 1950s and 1970s than it is today – but the private sector was also building more. While state housing may play a special role in guaranteeing access to decent homes for vulnerable people, it is likely to remain only a part of the overall housing mix.

Consequently, I want to ask whether state housing construction can help us build more housing in total, and hence escape our affordability problems across the board.

There is a risk that state housing will ‘crowd out’ private development. For instance, right now the Auckland construction sector seems to be approaching capacity, meaning that building another state home may simply divert builders from a private development, leading to no net increase in the quantity of construction. People on the waiting list for state housing would benefit from this, but people looking to buy their own home would lose out.

But at other times, that hasn’t been the case. For instance, after the Global Financial Crisis, housing development in Auckland crashed, meaning that there were plenty of builders twiddling their thumbs (or, more likely, moving to Australia). Consequently, ramping up state house construction in 2009-2011 wouldn’t have crowded out much private development. If we had built more state homes then, Auckland would have fewer housing affordability problems now.

Private housing development is quite sensitive to short-run changes in house prices. The following chart (compiled from RBNZ and Statistics NZ data) compares annual changes in house prices with quarterly residential dwelling consent numbers. When the rate of house price inflation falls, dwelling consents also fall off, and they don’t pick back up again until after prices start to rise again.

Because house price growth tends to be volatile, this means that the pace of private housing development is also quite volatile. This has two main detrimental effects:

  • First, it discourages builders from investing in better workforce training or new equipment and techniques. Why invest if you aren’t sure whether anyone will be hiring you to build homes next year? This in turn contributes to the poor productivity and high prices we see in construction.
  • Second, it virtually ensures that we will have a large and growing backlog of unmet housing needs. The current pace of around 30,000 consents per annum is probably just sufficient to keep up with population growth. That would be fine if we hadn’t been building at half that rate from 2009 to 2012. Essentially, the construction industry can’t build fast enough in the booms to overcome the shortfalls that arose in the busts.

State housing construction could help fix both problems, but we would have to take a significantly different approach than we have traditionally done. The government would need to commit to building more whenever private development started to flag, while getting out of the way when private development picked up.

The barrier to doing that is the politics. When affordability is seriously under the pump – ie when we’re in the ‘boom’ part of the cycle with rapidly rising prices – the pressure comes on politicians to do something about it. State housing construction is a part of that, as the government’s announcement the other week showed. But, as I’ve argued above, there are risks to ramping up construction in the booms, as it can simply accelerate prices without getting more built in total.

Conversely, when prices are flattening – or, heaven forfend, declining! – the heat comes off, and so politicians may decide to spend scarce public resources doing something else instead. Although this is probably a better time to build from an economic perspective, the political incentives point in the other direction.

This seems like a problem worth solving. For instance, it might be worth investigating whether to set up Housing New Zealand as an independent entity with some independent funding sources and a target of ensuring that a certain minimum amount of housing gets built, every year.

The gains from preventing housing development from falling off a cliff when prices stop increasing could be large. If, for instance, we’d kept building new homes at the same pace as in the mid-2000s construction boom and the current upswing, we’d have around 100,000 more homes than we actually do, and more affordable housing as a result.

What direction do you think state housing should take?

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  1. It just seems common sense.”…ramping up state house construction in 2009-2011 wouldn’t have crowded out much private development. If we had built more state homes then, Auckland would have fewer housing affordability problems now.” Who can argue with that?
    Tie state house building in with factory manufacture of kit homes and technical colleges and you would have a winner. As you say it would smooth out the peaks and troughs of our continual boom and bust building cycles.
    Now is the time to commit to it and start planning. It will take time to organise – maybe roughly the time to the next down cycle. Doesn’t matter too much whether it involves a state owned department of works or is a collection of contracts with serious well established architects, surveyors and builders. Note that given the commitment by government then every house would have a rock solid guarantee so even the council consenting process could be lightened.

  2. It would be useful to see how many builders are employed in building extra homes in Auckland, and how many are employed in extensions. Suburb by suburb. It is sad to see 5 houses in a row being extended, over, say, a 4 year period, when if those sections had been combined, a well-designed apartment block with plenty of green space could have provided 20 or more homes.

    This is where I think Housing New Zealand has a role in Auckland: kickstarting the apartment culture in a large part of the isthmus, near good transport. Few developers can afford to buy multiple properties, so one by one the properties are bought up and their value maximised – with large single family homes. I don’t care if HNZ then sell the apartments to be able to go and buy more properties or if they become a large-scale landlord.

    1. This is what is happening in my neighbourhood. Houses being stripped out entirely and remodelled to add a back deck, 2 ovens, etc. I suppose this is a rationale decision to capitalise on property values. Yay Single House zoning!

      1. Yes, and the design of the renos is so bad. Double car garage at the front, even if that’s the sunniest spot. They rip out the gib and put insulation in the walls from the inside, which is substandard. Huge big (out-of-keeping) concrete architectural statement walls that cut all the light, etc, all designed to match the coffee table books instead of environmental quality or longevity.

    1. The discontinuity with the house at the front, and the inhumane geometry and scale would put most people off apartments. 🙂

  3. Anytime the state can embark on a major programme that crowds out profiteering private-enterprise, it should do so, and do so at a scale that makes up for any reduction by the private sector. So even if private building drops by 90%, the scale of state housing should be sufficient to overcome this.

    This has two benefits
    -> A huge amount of housing, reducing housing costs
    -> Serious damage to a major pillar of the capitalist economy, bringing it another step closer to the precipice

    An additional benefit
    -> In giving people a state house, making them more loyal to the state than their own private interests

    1. Collapsing pillars of the economy, thats a good thing for people’s wellbeing right? Pretty sure that will make them very loyal to the state. And if not, they can be sent to reeducation camps anyway. Excellent plan.

      1. It’s not “collapsing pillars of the economy”, it’s remaking the economy into a fairer, more equitable and non-capitalist shape.

        1. I’m not sure that lining up for hours for the chance of a loaf of bread is fair or equitable.

        2. And group sourcing medical fees for a man attacked defending someone against racism is fair?

    2. Maybe the state could reform agriculture as well. Collectivise all productive land and tell the people who work there what crops to grow and when to plant and when to harvest. The state could shoot anyone who doesn’t hand over grain to the government, shoot anyone who refuses to shoot people the government doesn’t agree with and shoot most of the military officers just because the leader doesn’t trust them. Then when people are starving the leader could write bullshit like ‘Dizzy with Success’. https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/stalin/works/1930/03/02.htm

      1. Stalin: “Collective farms must not be established by force. That would be foolish and reactionary.”

        Hahahahaha what the actual fuck. Orwell was right about the double-speak.

        1. I know. Hayek claimed communism and fascism were two sides of the same coin. Countries that tried communism would very quickly become fascist when communism failed. It explains Stalin and it explains North Korea. There is nothing communist there anymore.

        2. People are always in charge. When there is less transparency, they are likely to want to stay in charge by more nefarious means.

          How scarce resources are allocated is thus meaningless unless you have transparency.

  4. My dad grew up in exactly that state house design! Family of six, once the number of kids got a bit high they converted the laundry into a bedroom (well a glorified bunk-cupboard) for the eldest boys.

    Perhaps one thing that is forgotten with housing these days, standards and sizes used to be a lot lower in the mid twentieth.

  5. I think you have highlighted that the real issue is actually one of money supply rather than house supply. Lots of need for houses in 2008 – but no supply of money, and so, no houses. Whereas now: too much money sloshing around, and not enough building being done. Fix the money supply issues, and you’ll go a long way to fixing the building issues.

    1. ++++1

      Reserve Bank needs to take back control of money supply and bring an end to boom and bust created by bank lending practices.

    2. I don’t think it is a money supply issue at all. There has been plenty of money flowing into houses. But instead of building new ones the increased money has simply bid up the price of existing houses. It is not a monetary issue it is a real issue of too much planning and regulation of land. Add to that the increased cost of building to meet the standards now required and compliance costs and then add on the influx of people.

      1. “There has been plenty of money flowing into houses.” Yip, every time there’s been a tax cut, the rich have spent it on a new renovation, a new beach house, a new investment property.

    3. No amount of easy money will make the market build and sell new dwellings below market rate, or below cost. Only the state can do that.

      Peter is right that increasing supply is the way to take scarcity out of the market and therefore soften price rise, but he is also right that the free market will also respond pretty quickly to price softening by slowing supply. This is a basic tenet of markets. The market alone will at best, as he also shows, tend to boom and bust cycles that do not provide an adequate level of shelter for all of society.

      Also a strict market system essentially condemns the poor to basically failed dwellings, because there is a structural proportion of the population who can not afford the market rate. This has well known bad consequences that reverberate all through society, and surface as bad outcomes and unnecessary costs in health, education, and justice, as well as imbeds avoidable human misery into our society.

      The state building and running a steady proportion of homes for those at the bottom of the market (below the market) looks like a more rational answer than the highly imperfect contortions of rent supplements and so on which are simply attempts to deal with the structural market failure while pretending there is no such problem.

      Have the state holding land over long periods and building constantly, though more in the busts than the booms, in joint ventures with private providers, mixing public housing through private, and still as a minority provider for those excluded from the market, is international best practice.

  6. Have been saying this for years now. The government should have stepped in during the GFC to shore up the building industry (in one shape or form) to keep them building and to stop all our builders and tradies moving to Australia.
    Boom and bust is not a good way to have an industry run and doesn’t help that industry to improve productivity by investment when they know the next bust is only around the corner.
    Most houses should be built with the framing pre-assembled in a factory so that builders can put it up quickly and cost-effectively.
    Perhaps the government should focus on the mid-rise market – build it and sell it to people who qualify for it at reasonable prices. Keep the odd unit for social housing obviously but the main thrust of this needs to be building affordable housing that people can own and take pride in themselves (avoiding the ghetto situation). Standard designs with exemptions to cut the red-tape down and get them built quickly, easily and cheaply. On such a building they could even look to have PV on the roof to lower ongoing costs for residents (a limited scale PV system could reduce power bills by $600 pa for each resident).

    1. Agree with most of what you say there.

      The only thing I’d disagree with is PV as it doesn’t scale well in NZ at the moment. There is a limit to how much power the market finds useful during the middle of the day and significantly increasing the number of houses with PV will likely reduce the price suppliers are willing to pay for it.

      This of course could all change with improvements in battery technology.

      1. Why does it depend on battery technology? Businesses need electricity during the day, and we have the grid to transfer the electricity from homes to businesses.

        Certainly there are companies willing to install PV for free, and offer you half-price electricity… if it’s worth it for them, despite only getting half the electricity, surely it’s worth it for state housing?

        1. Peak demand is during the evening in NZ, especially winter evenings, with a secondary peak in the morning. While you are right that there is demand during the day it is already well met by our network of renewable sources.

          Increasing the available supply of solar will just lower prices, meaning power companies will pay less for solar power. This has already started with some companies reducing the guaranteed rate they pay to solar generators. There is little benefit to putting solar panels on peoples roofs, with the associated maintenance costs when all it achieves is reducing uptake from geothermal and wind.

          The parliamentary commissioner for the environment has looked into solar a couple of times and has not found it to be a great solution in NZ.


        2. OK, thanks for that. So for homes, we’re really back to passive solar as the best way to heat. That takes site-specific design, or at least “standardised” plans that allow for about 8 different alignments to north.

        3. Home insulation is the big one in NZ, as this cuts down on the peak evening demand in the winter. It is something we have been terrible at in the past, but improvements in the last 10 – 15 years are starting to pay off with evening demand going up slower than population growth.

          You are correct though, passive solar is an important component of this as insulation also helps keep afternoon warmth through into the evening.

        4. Jezza – do you have a source on the changing trends in peak evening demand? Would be interesting to see some data on that.

        5. In Australia distributed PV is killing peak demand, which there occurs in the afternoon cos of aircon. NZ’s peak is in the evening, so yes I agree with Jezza here. LEDs are part of the mix too in lowering demand.

        6. Although I’ve read that for Auckland’s climate, once insulation is attended to, our cooling load should be higher than our heating load too. Didn’t make sense to me because I like it hot, but then I’m able to open and close windows and doors during the day, which people working out of the home can’t do.

        7. Anyone know if the storage heaters used overseas would be useful here, then? In Ireland, I had a heater that stored heat during the night when electricity was cheap, and then blew air out over the hot units during the following afternoon and evening. Here we could have PV on the roof heating the heater during the afternoon, then expelling that heat to the room in the evening.

        8. Nightstore heaters are still quite common down south, haven’t seen many in Auckland though. They are certainly a good use of stored power.

          There is definitely some logic to your solar solution for them. However, I think the main things that would count against it is there is plentiful cheap power available at night, so it probably wouldn’t justify the expense of solar alone. I can’t recall how well they held their heat through to the next evening though. Also there is a significant seasonal difference in the capacity of solar, unfortunately the summer being the best time.

          I don’t know for sure regarding Auckland’s climate, but from observing my office building it heats for about half the year and cools for the other half. Given home cooling is much less common than home heating the demand for heating is probably still significantly higher. However, intensification will likely tilt this balance.

    2. I think there are two main types of states houses:
      1. State built owner occupied
      2. State built subsidized rental

      The problem with HNZ historically is they focus on the second type of state house. Which attract a high concentration of low income people.

      Suburbs that has a high concentration of low income people driven by high concentration of rental state house will see ghettoization and social degeneration.

      Therefore HNZ should build more owner occuplied state houses that are good value high quality achieved by economic of scale – not by cutting corners and using cheap materials.

      The rental state house must be mixed with owner occupied house to keep a healthy ratio of mixed income community. Preferably 70% owned 30% rental

      1. Certainly a high ownership rate is a top goal. Pt Chev is a good example of bad policy. We used to have a good mix of private and state-owned housing. There was no ghetto effect. The range of state housing included tiny duplexes, single story stand-alones and two-storied larger homes.

        As the suburb has become gentrified, the private owners have shown no imagination: driveway-intensive infill and larger homes has been the only development.

        State housing could have encouraged older empty-nest tenants to move to smaller homes through a rent differential, as smaller homes in the same suburb became available. Wherever 2 or more sites became available, quality higher density housing could have been built, providing more homes for state tenants. Again, there was a good mix, so no ghetto.

        These higher density state houses would have led the way for the private owners to look at similar ideas.

        Instead, the state houses have been sold off, usually providing a windfall for someone in the private sector, the older tenants have moved away (a loss to the whole suburb, as they had a lot of connection and knowledge of the suburb’s history) and the ex-state houses have been as badly developed as the rest of the suburb. And now the government has to look at re-buying inthe current market.

        Stupid on every front.

  7. State homes came about because of an obvious shortage of decent housing for ordinary people that had been a problem well before the Labour Party came to power in the 30’s.

    Lack of decent affordable housing had the negative consequences of health problems and costs and by holding back the economy because when people can’t afford to live near their jobs, business cannot fully prosper. Seems an issue in Auckland right now.

    The original philosophy was simple, a decent basic home on a section you could grow your own veges on (ZB callers love that term) and somewhere for your kids to play and have pets, all to avoid the slum like tenement buildings that plagued Britain that the policy makers feared would end up being the case if they set up public housing on that model.

    The least desirable of all state homes was the 2 level flats that are or were common in GI, Otara, Orakei, Northcote, Porirua etc, with small sections front and rear and the concrete 3 level “Star flats” that were even less desirable, no section, UK council housing type affairs. The ones in Greys Ave seemed a bit of a one off in Auckland. Hence and although many think jamming people into this type of “Apartment” situation nowadays is what such 3rd class people deserve, I do not think it a good idea. But for now until something better is built, maybe.

    Post war the system was to import builders from the UK and Europe, offer them and their families residency, work and land in return for building state homes. That took care of the builder shortage and those guys set up their own business to achieve this, some still exist today.

    So long story short, the above philosophy was correct and it applies today as much as it did in the 30’s.

    Therefore stop selling off and or demolishing state homes. The state has the power to make things happen and cheaper than anyone else so start a programme of state housing and rent to own with rigid caveats to stop speculators taking advantage of them.

    And import builders from wherever to do the job if they are unavailable here. That kind of immigration is far more desirable than kitchen hands to reduce wages!

    1. ‘Therefore stop selling off and or demolishing state homes.’ Disagree very strongly with this; there is a clear need to improve old properties and intensify the landuse of state owned dwellings.

      The recently announced gov approach is the right one, its just too late and underscaled. New homes have to be somewhere, land is expensive; build more new warm secure dwellings on existing state owned properties for more people.

      1. Thats all fine and good until you are displaced or end up the other side of the city or never get off the waiting list for a house. State houses have been sold by this government for the quick easy money.

        I know people, especially academics, seem to see state housing tenants as lepers or undesirable commodities but when we have such a void of social and affordable housing build more first, be it green or brown field, then redevelop. This is a problem we all own and a Mike Hosking attitude wont cut it for long.

        And having grown up in a state house and state housing area, close quarter living does not make pleasant living, nor a thriving community despite the Enid Blighton fantasy images of it.

    2. Just a quick note about the sections “you could grow your own veges on”. As someone who grows (almost) all my own veges and fruit, and has been involved with three suburban community gardens, I am quite sure that most people don’t want to garden much anymore. Most people want easy access to a natural or wild setting, to a pleasant garden setting, and to be able to potter in soil, with the option of growing some veges when the ideas takes them. Apartment living, with plenty of quality green space and community gardens, achieves this far more efficiently than individual stand-alone housing. And with much more social health as a result.

      The city is full of gardens that are crying out for gardeners. I’m regularly asked if I could organise a community garden to help look after a garden somewhere. It doesn’t work in suburbia because everyone is too busy catching up with their own place, which they garden in isolation and consider a chore.

      I think any effort spent on trying to increase our stock of stand-alone housing is ill-placed. Quality apartment living is what we lack.

      1. I enjoy not growing vegetables. September is the best month to not grow vegetables. But I enjoy not growing them the rest of the year too.

        1. Ha ha. Exactly! Actually summer is the best time to not grow vegetables. That’s when the beach calls…

        2. I find if I start thinking about growing vegetables early in spring I can get a head start on not growing vegetables and have it well underway by the start of summer. If I leave it too late there is a big risk of actually growing a vegetable.

          Seriously though I think that the demand for growing your own food was a hangover from war scarcity days, a demand that is dying out with the pre boomer generation.

        3. Nah… You’re missing out on the finest tastes. Ever tasted a well-bletted medlar? Just coming into season now. Or fresh yacon, rapunzel and blue cheese salad… some things you just can’t buy.

        4. Heidi – i can’t believe that you know about the joys of a well-bletted medlar. My mum introduced those to me, and I’ve never heard of anyone else ever mentioning that.

          That said…. not a lot of call for bletting your medlars around here. And no room for a medlar tree if you live in an apartment.

        5. Plenty of room on verges and in parks and community gardens though. And you could be sure to get some because noone else would know what they are. I have the best crop yet this year, so if you want some, let me know.

  8. If government start building a lot of state house when house price starts to fall, it will flood the market with supply and accelerate the fall and cause a sharp fall of asset price, which collapse a lot of lenders and cause a big domino effect. That will could trigger economic recession.

    What a better solution is start building state house when market fall, but not sell it! Use it for motel, temporary accommodation or what ever.

    When the cycle is booming again, HNZ then sell the state house to first home owners and private buyers to slow down the raise of asset price.

    1. That seems like a reasonable suggestion. Rental affordability tends to decline in recessions as incomes drop due to job losses and cutbacks in hours while rents don’t tend to fall significantly. So that policy could ameliorate housing affordability in the downswings and upswings.

      1. I think there is a bigger point underlying Kelvin’s idea. Any beyond-market housing provision model, whether state-enabled or NGO-run has to work on a much longer-run economic model than the current speculative development model with it’s frighteningly volatile profit model.

        The model has to be based on long-term asset ownership and long term returns, in order to be more cost effective and to avoid the dangers of market boom/bust that dominate private development in NZ. If you look at many of the successful overseas NGO or partnership models they are based on a very different risk/return model to the NZ private housing market. Housing is a long-term demand market, and I think we are plain stupid if we continue to lock our supply pipeline to decisions dictated by short-cycle returns, which clearly conflict with our realisable build capacity. We should be looking at the very trustworthy long-term nature of the demand and start treating a long-hold return as far lower risk. That should give the bankers a fit, but then they are responsible for this irresponsible short-term mindset I think.

        Referring to the idea of a state programme “crowding out” the building capacity market, I do think this is not what would occur in reality. As others have commented, having a predictable, long-term programme is much more likely to substantially contribute to increasing total building supply chain capacity. Having a reliable, stable market in the form of the state-led owner will lead to new build capacity being established. Win. Better still, if it adopts a more robust long-term return model, the quality of building will be driven up as well – no investor with a 50+ year returns horizon and a say in the specification & build quality would build the stuff that we throw up today.

        If it is designed well, such a programme could also reinstate valuable industry skills training, invest a small part of it’s programme in (risky) innovations, and potentially spin-off a whole range of market-ready tools such as trustworthy Body Corporate and Leasehold companies, shared-equity/ownership companies, and energy-services companies (ESCo’s) to enable more efficient & cost effective building + neighbourhood scale systems. That’s just the list that falls off the top of my head; there will be more.

        Ultimately, the success of these things all comes back to channelling and harnessing money, whether it is for state-led building or for guiding the market better with model such as the Danish State Loans programme. As Patrick says, I believe that only the state can really overcome the constraints of the prevailing financial model at this point in time; our community-led alternatives just don’t have the scale (yet).

        1. I didn’t say government stop building house during certain times.

          Every year the government will build a consistent number of high quality state houses that will encourage the construction industry to invest in construction efficiency technology and innovations.

          Every month the housing department will monitor house price and comes up with a consistent formula that ‘release’ a certain amount of built state house, or ‘hold back’ some of the built housing stock.

          Think of the housing stock as oil reserve. Government keep building it round the years.. but only release them when the markets needs.

          It can be used as one form of marco economic instrument.

  9. A genuine question for the knowledgeable ones out there. What is the situation regarding local body rates – are any rates payable on state housing ?
    I don’t imagine the tenants would be expected to pay rates, but I understand that property owned by the Government is not subject to local body rates.
    Anybody know the answer, please?

  10. TimR, since you’re reading, and the topic is related to this post, can you tell me why so few of the Danish homes in the Landmarks book you recommended are laid out properly for passive solar gain? (I admit I’ve skimmed through mainly looking at the house plans because I’ve got a lot of other stuff to read at the moment.) Was there reticulated hot water for heating, reducing the need for good solar design?

    More to the point, how can we regulate for proper passive solar design? I know Auckland Council has attempted it in part, but I also know that the results are mediocre at best.

    1. Just had a quick flick through my copy… The vast majority are very much solar-designed. Being northern hemisphere they don’t generally face north as we do of course…

      It’s also worth noting that northern Europe has had much higher insulation levels than NZ for a long time. Once a house is well insulated it is easy to get overheating (that’s now a bigger problem in new NZ houses, hence one aspect the popularity of aircon / heat pumps) due to solar gain. The Danish examples vary but many seek east and west sun, not just south. It’s all in the detail of all orientation, overhangs, shading and glazing heights how much sun gets in when, plus how the heat is stored over a day or a few days.

      As for regulating for passive solar – it’s easy to write rules that seem to work at a planning stage, only to find that they can be impractical to apply and make judgements on as a consenting authority, and to get all stages of the development chain to work together – everything needs to support the result, from structure plans to subdivision layout, to earthworks design, to individual building designs, to landscaping, but we’re really not that integrated as an industry yet. That doesn’t mean the Plan rules are not useful, just that they don’t do the whole job. Unless we are prepared to regulate things like tree height to ensure solar access to neighbouring sites then it can’t guarantee results. The idea of solar cities is an intriguing one, but there is a lot more than solar access to resolve in an urban environment.

      It’s really an area best covered by Building Code as it directly addresses heating etc, and it is at this stage of design that the results are really achieved (or not) and the outcomes can be measured. The fact that we don’t get solar homes is largely down to having a cheapskate Building Code with poor performance standards compared to other countries. We tell ourselves our climate is mild, our energy supply is renewable, and our housing costs are already too high, and therefore we don’t need to do better. Nuts.

      IMHO It would be very easy to drive passive solar design simply by setting decent standards of fuel consumption per m2 (or dwelling, or bedspace) per annum (as PassivHaus, Homestar and other voluntary standards to varying levels of performance). This would allow each type of building to respond accordingly – solar is easy and important in standalone homes, while terraced and apartment forms increasingly get their energy efficiency results from having less external wall which offsets the greater difficulty in getting solar access in dense environments. It would also require the complete building layout (is the living space facing the right way) and specification (is there a thermal mass element, and is the insulation sufficiently good) works together to get the end result.

      1. Yes, what you say about a fuel consumption standard makes sense to me. A criticism would be that it is harder for a developer to know if the standard will be met until it is in use, but there are obvious disadvantages to any other type of standard, since each site is unique. Thanks Tim.

      2. This is a very good point, and one that I haven’t seen before. Care to send us a guest post expanding on it?

  11. After WW2 in the late forties and early fifties there was a continuing housing shortage and the availability of State Advance loans and State housing was a great way to increase the housing stock.
    The present problem is the cost of building materials /unprecedented mark ups by builders and tradies. This coupled with the low wage economy has shut the major section of our population from the housing market. It has meant that those houses that are being built are not low cost first homes but for the upper income group of buyers.

    Those Housing Corp houses that were cleared from Glenn Innes were not replaced with low income homes but with up market homes. Initially there were going to be 50% low cost homes but that was amended to 15% and eventually none because that land was to valuable. This was not the way the system was sold.

    In Papakura (OldWairoa Road) we have had 2 State houses removed and replaced with what appears to be 9 very low cost crowded units, It will be interesting to see how they fare in the present market. It’s to be hoped that housing Corp will be able to be staffed adequately to manage them well.

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