The shortest version

We have to build.

The short version

  • Estimates vary but we’re at least 30,000 houses short of current demand, and we’re facing a very large population increase that will put us ever further behind.
  • We’re not building enough houses to catch up, and the houses we are building aren’t affordable for first home buyers, young families, etc.
  • We have to build more high quality medium and higher density housing.
  • We need a coordinated building programme, with central government building/contracting an increase in state housing stock, local government building council flats & emergency housing, and enabling private developers to build the right housing in the right places for the right prices.

The longer version

We have fantastic architects and urban designers in New Zealand.
We have no shortage of design talent.
We have no shortage of innovative construction ideas.
We have no shortage of entrepreneurial people.

But we have a shortage of housing.

Right now we’re at least 30,000 dwellings short of demand (and some estimates say as many as 80,000 short), we’re getting further behind every week, and we’re expecting 700,000 to a million new Aucklanders over the next 30 years and we need to build housing for all of them.

This will mean trusting some of the same commercial developers who have previously done such visibly shoddy work — leaky buildings, dark and claustrophobic clusters of cheap looking but high priced townhouses, towering low quality apartment blocks in the central city, and the total vacuum of joy or life on upper Nelson St — to help us build our way out of the situation we’re in.

We have better guidelines from council, we have the unitary plan providing guidance on what types of housing to build where, and we have the Auckland design manual. So we’re more likely to get better housing than when we didn’t have those guidelines, but there’s still going to be that matter of trust. But we’ll continue improving our consenting process, our guidelines for designers, and we will find a way to get our housing supply under control.

I grew up in a Ponsonby villa, and that’s where my heart lies, but I’ve lived all across Waitematā in Ponsonby, Westmere, Grafton, the central city, and Parnell. I’ve lived in different vintages of villas, bungalows, townhouses, heritage apartment buildings, modern apartment buildings, and all were great for different reasons.

The future of Auckland, for the large majority of people, isn’t going to be in stand alone houses. The quarter acre dream only leads to a nightmare of sprawl, ever increasing roading and infrastructure budgets, and people spending half their lives in cars.

Our housing future is medium and higher density, built close to transport nodes.

It’s not a pipe dream to have a higher density city that’s great to live in – we just have to take a lesson from the likes of Paris and the many other thriving & dynamic cities in Europe and elsewhere around the world. The great O.E. is a fairly typical experience for many New Zealanders, so many of us have visited those cities and we’ve seen that it works.

Everyone who has traveled to those cities also knows that they’ve protected their built heritage. We also need to do that – and do a better job than we’ve previously done, we can never again have the likes of sneaky demolition of His Majesty’s.

We need to demand high design standards, and we certainly need to do better with it than we have in recent years in terms of having some mixed use so that we don’t have housing ghettos that you just sleep in and then have to leave if you want to really live, but instead design and build places where you want to be, where you can get a coffee or a meal and that even have a bit of retail or office space mixed in.

The central government needs to play a very large role in this – we need more state housing, and more government contracted housing developments. We need this to be coordinated with local government building modern council flat-style housing and emergency housing so we never again see families having to resort to living in cars and garages. And we need to encourage commercial developers to build tens of thousands of new high quality affordable dwellings ever year until we’re out of this mess.

We’ve been in this position before, we built our way out of it then, we can do it again.