Phil is making this up as he goes

This government very slowly released details of their promise to build 100,000 affordable new homes and only when pressed.

From the dearth of information given at the outset, it is obvious Housing Minister Phil Twyford is flying by the seat of his pants and making decisions as he goes.

Auckland has a real need for affordable housing and disappointment came with the first detail released which was that only half of the promised affordable homes are to be built in Auckland.

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The next disappointment was when asked how many of their annual 10,000 quota will be built in the first year, we learned that the government intends to include private new builds in their quota. This reeks of a lack of planning and is a dishonest manoeuvre to get the numbers up to what was promised.

If anyone was optimistic about the government’s ability to provide affordable housing, by now they will be asking how much planning has actually been done. The detail dribbling through does not promise a good outcome.?

Picture an affordable family home, a modest three beddie on a small 300 to 400 square metre site. When pressed on how this will be built within budget in Auckland, Twyford finally admitted that Auckland housing will be mostly apartments and terrace houses, with maybe some stand-alone housing further out.

Further out is Whenuapai, where the government was quick to piggyback on the established plans of a private developer who is well underway. Of course, without doing anything at all the government will add these new builds into their own promised quota.

When asked this week about building within budget, Twyford?s answer was that the homes will be pre-fabricated off-site. He says this will be faster and cheaper than the traditional on-site build. Well, that may be, but this is a relatively new industry in residential housing, with only a handful of players. The worst case scenario is the strong likelihood of Twyford face planting at our expense. The best case scenario is that while the government may not add anything to the existing housing industry, it will, of course, take the kudos if the pre-fabricated builds last the distance.

We have a history of government-funded housing. In the late 1930?s the New Zealand government started building state houses for people who couldn’t afford to buy and would otherwise have been homeless after the loss of jobs during the Great Depression.

Heavily subsidised housing was available for people who were on the bones of their bums. But for some, temporary support became permanent when they refused to seek employment as it became available, instead choosing to live off the state. That was nearly 100 years ago and we are still providing state housing in a very different economic climate.

Back then immigrants flooding into New Zealand were grateful for a roof over their heads while they established themselves and saved for their own homes. For them, government-funded housing support was transitional. They had uprooted their families and travelled halfway around the world for the opportunity to get ahead in life which included home ownership.

Leaving behind cramped rental houses and apartments in the United Kingdom and Europe, they aspired to owning what was, at that time, a typical New Zealand home. Three bedrooms with a single bathroom, weatherboard and iron roof house on a quarter acre section.

Built for New Zealand conditions, these mid-century houses are still popular today because they were so well constructed but the quarter acre section has long disappeared after being carved up for more homes.

When land became less available and more expensive, we consoled ourselves by building bigger homes on smaller pieces of land. Despite this, house prices kept going up.

The building industry was not regulated and we got well and truly bitten by cheap and nasty construction which produced leaky homes. The government, which could have regulated in the first place but didn’t, stepped in to fund repairs.

In Auckland, home ownership has moved beyond the reach of most would-be new homeowners even using sites a fraction the size of the quarter acre section.

Where to next? The old adage that “you don’t always get what you want” has well and truly kicked in. We have gone full circle and the reality, in Auckland, is that many are forced to rent homes similar to those our forebears left behind on the other side of the world.

Can we resurrect the homeownership dream for our children and their children? Unless we want to develop like Hong Kong or Singapore we have to. It won?t be on the quarter acre section but could run to stand-alone housing on small sites. This would require thorough planning, costing and follow through however which this government has not demonstrated.

The answer to solving Auckland’s housing crisis is in developing new suburbs further out, connected by a superfast rail within a 60-minute commute of Auckland central.

Not for one minute should we think about pillaging prime horticultural land for housing. The idiots who have already done this in South Auckland should be put up against a wall and shot. There is enough unproductive land to the west, north and further south of Auckland that could have been used instead.

You?d have thought this government might have allocated money to one of the many working groups they are so fond of. It would have made sense to finalise a strategy before making such a rash promise. It wasn?t even original because last year National recognised the need for affordable housing and promised 60,000 new builds over ten years. Labour just had to go one better, but without doing their homework.

The real worry is that budget constraints and quality control issues arising from the prefabrication process will cause building failure because we will be funding the remedial work.

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