Message from the Director

    Kia ora koutou

    Welcome to the first Building Better Homes Towns and Cities: Ko ngā wā kaingā hei whakamahorahora National Science Challenge (BBHTC) newsletter for 2021.

    This year will be a big one for housing and urban development, with the ongoing effects of COVID 19, the return of tourists through the opening of the travel bubble with Australia, and the RMA reforms. All of these to varying extents will have an impact on our homes and communities.

    In this newsletter we feature BBHTC research on housing supply and financialisation of the housing market. How do developers make decisions, what were the effects of Special Housing Areas, what is housing market resilience, and who is privileged by current policy and practice? We also look at the positive and negative experiences of older Māori renters in the current housing climate.

    Community engagement is vital as our communities navigate change, and when it goes well it enables the vibrancy and connectedness that fuels our wellbeing, so tools and techniques to support effective participation in planning and decision-making are another feature of the research featured in this newsletter.

    As always we welcome your feedback, so if you feel inclined click on the email link in the tell us more section and let us know what you think.

    Ngā mihi nui
    Ruth Berry
    BBHTC Director

    Life when renting for older Māori

    The proportion of Māori aged over 55 years living in rental accommodation is likely to rise as home ownership becomes less attainable. To examine what the future of rental accommodation may hold for older Māori, Building Better Researchers Dr Fiona Cram and Morehu Munro interviewed 42 older Māori renters in the Hawke’s Bay region of Aotearoa New Zealand about their experiences.

    Participants had moved to their current home to be closer to whānau or out of necessity, and their whānau had often helped them make the decision to move. While some found paying their rent manageable, they often struggled with other living costs. Some struggled with the cost of rent.

    “Until the mid-1970s, the proportion of Māori households whose members owned their own home exceeded those who lived in rented accommodation, but this has now been reversed,” says Fiona.

    Image: Cristian Newman, Unsplash.

    Quality of life ultimate goal for ‘smart’ communities

    The knowledge of what is going on with infrastructure in a city helps city managers to anticipate and plan for changes needed to investment and operations. For this, good geospatially-referenced data is crucial to making good decisions. City managers also need the capacity to analyse, diagnose, and communicate in order to improve quality of life for citizens – the ultimate goal of being ‘smarter’.

    The management of public assets faces a similar challenge of ensuring that the goal of managing assets is to improve quality of life for the communities they serve.

    A Building Better project by WSP’s Vivienne Ivory, Kai O’Donnell, and Phil McFarlane investigated how smaller local authorities can harness the power of smart data to analyse and diagnose infrastructure performance and allow communities to participate in decisions over the whole life of assets.

    Building the foundations of collaboration: From housing development to community renewal

    Collaborative governance and planning are usually seen as an improvement on technocratic “top-down” approaches, but they can be criticized for exacerbating power imbalances, failing to be inclusive and/or impartial, and for ignoring historical conflict. A team of Building Better Researchers Drs Zohreh Karaminejad, Suzanne Vallance, and Roy Montgomery from Lincoln University investigated how strong foundations for collaborative housing-renewal may be built to address these concerns and facilitate broader community-renewal ambitions.

    State houses in Aranui, such as this multi-unit building, were designed without consultation and with reduced cost in mind. The dwellings caused widespread dissatisfaction because of the lack of privacy and limited private outdoor spaces. They were monotonous and the proximity of several multi-unit buildings promoted territorial gang wars and created safety issues for other residents. Some have been replaced, some still remain, and they remain unpopular. Photo: Zohreh Karaminejad, Lincoln University.

    Supporting geospatial decisions

    Urban planning is complex. How do you address population growth in cities without degrading the local environment, while promoting social and environmental sustainability, liveability, health, and wellbeing? Decisions should be informed from the current evidence for better social, environmental, and economic outcomes at the city and neighbourhood scales.

    However, planners face the challenge of having to comply with planning processes and regulations which don’t necessarily have an integrated approach to environmental, social, and economic assessment of planning and regeneration scenarios. There are also significant pressures to urban transformation, with the rise of national and transnational standards and neoliberalism which can see business interests directly influence local development decisions at the expense of other considerations.

    Financialisation of NZ’s housing market driving house price increases

    In Aotearoa New Zealand, our housing stock is now seen as a commodity and this financialisation of the housing market is driving exponential increases in house prices. At the same time, home ownership is a dominant aspiration for New Zealanders.

    Evidence from Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities National Science Challenge shows that it is not land costs that determine whether houses are built or not, it’s what people can sell those houses for on the open market, and a profit margin that is attractive to banks and equity lenders.

    The reality of undersupply: In the 1960s over 35% of new builds in Aotearoa New Zealand were in the lowest quartile of value. By 2003, only eight percent of new builds were in the lowest quartile of value.

    2020: A Year without Public Space

    2020: A Year without Public Space under the COVID-19 Pandemic is a webinar series which includes presentations and moderation by BBHTC Urban Wellbeing researcher Manfredo Manfredini, Associate Professor in Achitecture and Planning at the University of Auckland.

    The videos are now available on the BBHTC website.

    The World is temporarily closed. Photo: Edwin Hooper, Unsplash.

    BBHTC researcher profile: Gradon Diprose

    Gradon Diprose has a curious mind, he has always questioned the world around him. Now he is a geographer working as a social science researcher at Manaaki Whenua—Landcare Research. He is a key researcher in Building Better's Huritanga research team and was a key researcher on the Delivering Urban Wellbeing project. He is passionate about communicating solutions to social and environmental issues in an accessible way.

    BBHTC early career researcher: Gradon Diprose. Photo: Royal Society Te Apārangi.

    New publications

    The Building Better research library continues to grow at pace on our website. New publications uploaded since the last newsletter include:

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