Update from Alex: Tackling the housing crisis

28 May 2016

Residential affordability seems to be reaching fever-pitch in the media, with point-scoring causing some surprising opinions from the major political parties. With the left calling for a relaxing of city limits and the right calling for a housing strategy, it seems we’ve climbed to the top of the Magic Faraway Tree, and discovered the Land of Topsy Turvy. Politics aside, the reality is that there is no silver bullet to our housing crisis. What is really clear is that the quality of our existing housing is below OECD standards, our children suffer more respiratory ailments than other OECD children and that unless we build a clear picture of what we deserve/want/need, then industry cannot align to deliver it.

We need to take a proactive stance to identify a clear vision of the kind of built environment we want, and then align behind that to deliver it. An overall housing strategy for New Zealand should be a collaborative solution that cuts across all forms of government and works with the building and construction, and property sectors, and involves community participation. Needless to say, sustainability must be an integral part of any strategy to deal with the housing crisis because it avoids building in obsolescence (the kind of poor quality housing we are now dealing with) and it addresses those critical issues of affordability over the longer term (not just up-front cost) and health in our poorer communities (that costs NZ Inc money that could be better spent).

Andrea Reimer from Vancouver, our keynote speaker at the Sustainable Housing Summit (SHS16) on 15 June (Auckland) and 17 June (Christchurch), has extensive experience in this space – from social participation in Vancouver’s vision of the greenest city on earth, through to trying every housing affordability tactic under the sun; she believes the trick for good engagement is working to support people in being heard, but also working to support them in listening to what others in their community have to say.

You might remember Adam Beck who was involved in both the development of Green Star Communities and the EcoDistricts Protocol – both mechanisms to assist the creation and development through collaborative governance of great communities and urban precincts. Adam is joining us for SHS16 as our closing keynote, and is also taking part in a special briefing on communities tools on 16 June, only available for SHS participants. Contact our events team if you are interested, but there are limited places available.

Great communities don’t just happen – they need a whole host of great processes to align - the right kind of governance leading the way, good master planning, clear and appropriate rules, a complete framework, place-making, all combined with the economics of development stacking up, and they need to be able to anticipate and deliver on the needs of the community (and all of the community, not just the vocal few). New Zealand doesn’t have a great track record, but boy are we catching up! We’re showcasing great examples of innovative developments here in Australasia, such as Steve Evans from Fletcher Building and their work in the East Frame in Christchurch, James Legge with his Nightingale model in Melbourne (a social enterprise that delivers affordable, architect design housing with community participation) and we also have a panel debate on housing health and affordability, with representatives from EECA, Ngati Whatua, Massey University and the Morgan Foundation.

If residential development is your thing, this is your month! From the Sustainable Housing Summit in Auckland and Christchurch, to our exclusive briefing on communities rating tools, or our latest educational course – Homestar for multi-unit residential, we hope there’s something that appeals.

Warm regards, Alex