Three housing things

Fixing our housing crisis: it’s a hot topic and it’ll be one of our election deciders… but it’s also really easy to misunderstand. Here are three useful things about housing to add to your brain food this week

1. Rates and more homes

One symptom of politicians showing they’re In Touch With The Populace is the fashion to subject everything – including really sensible things we’ve needed for ages – to “Oooh but we probably shouldn’t right now because whatabout the cost of living”. And with council rate rises, for example, getting even more heat than they normally would, everybody likes the sound of getting more homes without raising rates.

Here’s one thing that’s guaranteed to raise your rates: that great new greenfield suburban development of [forest / scrub / farmland] with its nice detached house-and-section packages and access via [insert large road with no PT].

Silverwood, Whitby – classic greenfield suburban development

What kind of “more homes” will lower your rates? For an individual town or city, what’s good for rates is increasing the value of what we do on bits of land: doing more good stuff on every square kilometre we’ve already built up. (Obviously, big picture it’s reform of NZ’s local government and infrastructure funding – the status quo is completely borked.)

Here’s a nice summary of the facts including the fun* concept of the growth Ponzi scheme NZ’s councils are running.

*for a certain definition of “fun”

2. National’s housing policy & infrastructure

Infrastructure funding for greenfield development is one of the well-founded elements in the National Party’s recently-released housing policy. It would force councils to make greenfield developments pay for their own infrastructure: no more subsidising the maintenance of pipes, roads and footpaths, parks etc in low-density sprawl areas, by sucking money from higher-value areas of the city.


We really hope this’ll actually happen, because a scary proportion of central government policies founded on “make councils do X” are failing due to… most councils’ fundamental capacity and capability weaknesses. Hmmm. (See the excellently named Better Things Are Possible blog for a level-headed analysis of National’s housing policy).

3. In praise of boring boxes

Less directly related, but one of the many many elements contributing to our housing supply crisis: our obssession with every home looking Different And Special.

Custom-making everything through to windowframes and doors is a significant contributor to the price of new homes, and great for keeping our home-building industry dominated by tiny (tiny) outfits in layers of subconstracting and getting their 5% profit. Here’s a great article – “In Praise Of Dumb Boxes” – and a lovely thread (below), both illustrating that what we call “boring” or “little samesame boxes” needn’t mean unappealing, and “boring” also means you get more homes, that are better to live in, in stronger happier neighbourhoods…

Image credits:

Banner –

Footnote on cost of living and more homes

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