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Affordable housing in Wellington Central

  • April 28th, 2008

I’ve had a long interest in housing policy.  Some of that interest may have been counter-productive.

When the Wellington Housing Trust started I helped it with honorary (i.e. unpaid) legal work, though the Trust’s needs soon outran my limited property law expertise. Now I wonder whether Trust type help for the few it can, has merely disguised the left’s complicity in destroying the housing hopes of a generation. 

The ratio between average house prices and average wages has doubled under Labour. Average wage earners would now need nearly 90% of their income to service a typical buyer mortgage on an average Wellington house.

House pricing is just like any other – prices settle where supply matches demand. The kinds of people I once encouraged have succeeded in strangling supply.

I console myself that at least I stopped being a housing saboteur 20 years ago, when the Mt Victoria Residents Association moved on from opposing monster blocks that oveshadowed the neighbour-hood and began imposing the twee style preferences of its committee.  Having finials or fretwork on your house became fatal to change. I gradually disengaged from the committee, then after a few years confined to collecting inorganic rubbish and donations, ceased to attend Association meetings.  

I love the eclectic tumble of homes in our neighbourhood. It has been created by the riotously various tastes and preferences of the people who owned each home.  They did not have to please any style police.

I became increasingly concerned about what was happening to that energy as the Council effectively supported association demands. In effect now nobody  can change anything without their neighbours’ permission, or enough money to outlast objections.

Becoming passive was not easy. Catharine and I bought our first home here in 1979 and we were stalwarts of the Association, taking turns as Secretary/Treasurer for years, so I was sorry to conclude that they were doing more harm than good. But I felt that they were creating the kind of ‘monoculture’ and class environment they thought they did not want, by freezing housing in a status quo that could only favour wealth . 

And I realised that many did not actually care. Nimbys are callous about the true consequences of “doing good”.

Recently I’ve become fascinated by the stunning  transportable houses produced by  Wellington designer Rod Gibson. They will be hard to get here for a long while, because the factory in China can not pour them out fast enough to satisfy the demand for instant mining towns in Australia. Australia is getting more of another design.

Whale Oil links to a cheap housing solution in his unusually long post. A pyramid of ‘studios’ created from containers looks funky, cheap, and functional.

Those kinds of developments would be dead here before they started. Though a few recycled container shell houses have got through in the past I’m sure they’d now rust away while the permit applications lay in the dead hands of the Council.

Apart from anything else Wellington’s 10sqm-balcony-in-the-sun rule would squelch most hopes. It was introduced to kill the developers’ sensible responses to Asian student demand for affordable units of a size they were comfortable in. Councillors trumpeted their virtue as they told the people who wanted to trade space for location and price that they were not allowed such an adult decision.

Now the Wellington City Council are spending millions improving their own housing ghetto. It never occurs to the anointed who congratulate themselves on their housing efforts that even the few poor they can privilege with subzidised housing in the centre city might be better off, more proud of themselves and almost certainly safer from some of their ghastly neighbours, if the anointed had simply got out of the way of some of the better developers who would give them what they could pay for.



Love the port a house. It’s like a mobile home without wheels. Now if only land prices didn’t look like telephone numbers.

  • jcuknz
  • April 29th, 2008
  • 12:00 pm

You have missed the local Wellington product of a couple of young architects. It was published in ‘Building’ a few issues ago. It too used the container principle and in the NZ context was targetted at the holiday home to be shifted around when you wanted a different view from the lounge [Hokitica to Bay of Islands perhaps :-)]

The cost of housing has soured partly becuase of the cost of materials and wages but also because for all their blustering nonsense the Clerk Govt has not built enough, and in sensible proportions, State houses.

Many years ago when I was flatting in Wellington, where the motorway now runs, Hawkestone Street, and was paying a goodly proportion of my income in rent. I came up with a housing policy for a Responsible Society.

It is the duty of the state to house its people in ‘adequate’ but not ‘lavish’ conditions. For this they would pay 10%

  • jcuknz
  • April 29th, 2008
  • 12:02 pm

The balance of my message ….

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