Innovating housing futures: case studies from the Waikato and Nelson

There have been several innovative responses to housing unaffordability in both the Waikato and Nelson. Researchers in the Affordable Housing for Generations (AHfG) research programme in the Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities National Science Challenge (BBHTC), Bev James, Gauri Nandedkar, and Simon Opit have been exploring the potential of local innovation through land and financial investment strategies.

Bev explains that in the Waikato region, they encountered two linked innovative responses, “These were strategic networking, as exemplified by the Waikato Housing Initiative (WHI), and the establishment of a community land trust, as exemplified by the Waikato Community Lands Trust (WCLT).”

The WHI is a multi-agency and cross-sectoral group with goals to improve the delivery of affordable housing that responds to local housing need. The WCLT is a charitable trust aiming to acquire land on which partners will build affordable housing.

“These responses have gradually developed over the past decade, in the context of a deepening awareness of critical regional housing issues, including lack of housing supply, declining affordability of homes to rent or buy, a growing intermediate housing market, an ageing housing stock and poor dwelling conditions, as well as rising homelessness,” says Bev.


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Government residential maintenance incentives and information programmes

BBHTC researcher Dr Nigel Isaacs, a senior lecturer at the Wellington School of Architecture at Victoria University of Wellington, has investigated the programmes or requirements in other countries for maintaining residential dwellings to see if these incentives and programmes are useful in a New Zealand context.

He writes that although designers, builders, purchasers, product suppliers, and politicians frequently focus on construction costs, the real cost of a dwelling over its life also includes its operating cost and cost of maintenance and refurbishment. Those latter costs are rarely taken into account when we consider housing affordability. And, unfortunately, the issue of maintenance, or more correctly a lack of maintenance, of New Zealand houses has a long history.

“The New Zealand Building Code (NZBC) is unique among international jurisdictions in including a durability requirement to ensure that consented dwellings have a limited maintenance requirement over a specified lifespan, that requirement is implemented through NZBC Clause B2-Durability, but whether that means that New Zealand has minimised maintenance and repair costs is debatable. What is clear is that dwelling maintenance continues to present challenges to many owner occupiers and property investors.”

Regular BRANZ House Condition Surveys have found that New Zealand dwellings are not well maintained, with households spending around one third of the amount required for maintenance. Low maintenance is a national problem. Photo: Nigel Isaacs.


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Reflections on kaumātua, pakeke and seniors’ housing: Building robust solutions with research

Launched on 2 November 2022 at the Moa Crescent Kaumātua village in Kirikiriroa (Hamilton), a new information resource to promote better housing for our ageing population presents BBHTC/Ageing Well research exploring why changes are needed to our housing system, looks at some imaginative opportunities, and shares the housing experiences and aspirations of kaumātua, pakeke (older people) and seniors.

Aotearoa New Zealand has an ageing population, people are living for longer and in better health than ever before. In 40 years there will be one million kaumātua, pakeke, and seniors who will be over the age of 65. Unless something is done to support this large group to better access housing and employment, our seniors, especially those living in urban environments, will find it increasingly difficult.

According to Age Concern New Zealand Chief Executive Karen Billings-Jensen, the way we age has altered significantly and this is placing more pressure on people over the age of 65 in accessing secure housing and employment.


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Kaupapakāinga: The potential for Māori cohousing

Māori conceptions of ‘home’ are relational and multi-dimensional. They can extend beyond the physical house, drawing on connections and relationships within and between whānau, whenua, and whakapapa.

These conceptions can be at odds with mainstream societal regimes, which tend to focus on individualisation, private property rights, and the nuclear family unit. Building Better researcher Dr James Berghan asks if there may be better options worth investigating.

“Much of our housing stock is reflective of those values which don’t necessarily align with a relational Māori world view. A growing body of literature is emerging on housing approaches that might better suit Māori needs and aspirations,” says James.

A number of scholars have explored various aspects of Māori and housing, including trends and contemporary barriers to Māori achieving their housing aspirations, papakāinga (Māori housing) design principles, and established toolkits to guide the development of papakāinga – advancing the state of knowledge around papakāinga and the potential for kaupapa Māori housing and neighbourhood design approaches.

Earthsong Eco-Neighbourhood, Ranui, Auckland. Photo: James Berghan.


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Ecology of community

Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities: He Kāinga Whakamana Tangata, Whakamana Taiao (BBHTC) was pleased to invest in a PhD scholarship to allow James Berghan (Te Rarawa, Te Aupōuri) to complete his important mahi on social tenure. In 2020, James successfully defended his PhD thesis at Otago University and is now officially Dr James Berghan. He is now also a Lecturer in Urban Design in the School of Surveying, at the University of Otago – the first Māori academic to join the school.

Dr Berghan’s PhD studies social (or communal) tenure – a system of rights which are based on social norms, processes, and relationships.

“Social tenures are a feature of many Indigenous cultures, where land and resources are managed from a collectivist, rather than an individualist, standpoint,” says James.

“For instance, in New Zealand, Māori society was traditionally based around territorial tribal living, with hapū (sub-tribes) controlling and defending particular territories.

“Western governance ushered in by Te Tiriti o Waitangi eroded this form of living by favouring individualised land tenure, and individualised tenure, private ownership and commodification have since tended to dominate the literature on housing and property.

Dr James Berghan at graduation. Photo: Kate Herdman.


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COVID-19 and media constructions of housing and home in Aotearoa New Zealand

Mainstream media persistently reduces housing to a property investment and housing stock as a commodity for trade according to new research by Building Better’s Dr Gauri Nandedkar, a researcher in the Affordable Housing for Generations team.

“Despite the home being the central mechanism of defence in the Government’s ‘bubble’ strategy to manage the COVID-19 pandemic, with the public required to isolate at home, mainstream media rarely made connections between public health strategies to manage COVID-19 and the state of housing, and persistently treated housing as an aspect of the property market – a financial asset, commodity and wealth generator – even while the pandemic and the requirement to isolate were in full swing.

“Some Māori media did make more direct connections between COVID-19 and housing and framed those connections through its focus on whānau and wellbeing. Narratives typically portrayed COVID-19 not as creating a housing crisis, but the housing crisis increasing vulnerabilities to COVID-19. The lack of adequate, safe, and secure housing was presented as meaning many were unable to ‘shelter in place’ in order to protect themselves and their families.”


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Looking for hope in our housing crisis: When the facts change


What: The Spinoff article and podcast by Bernard Hickey

Reporter Bernard Hickey was shocked at how shocked readers were at his loss of hope for the housing futures of young renters. Challenged to come up with new ideas unconstrained by political and financial limits, he went in search of hope elsewhere and dreamed up a big new idea of his own.

Bernard spoke to BBHTC’s co-leader for Affordable Housing for Generations, Dr Kay Saville-Smith, in a podcast. Kay said she was more hopeful than she’d been in decades of housing research and policy advice. She said policy makers, politicians and many in the sector had finally realised the scale of the issues and the need to change many things, through regulation, investment and policy changes. She was positive about the role of community housing providers and Kāinga Ora in building new homes, and also pointed to the potential for councils to use special rates to capture value uplift on land values when councils rezone areas and/or make the land more valuable by investing in infrastructure in and around it.

Photo: Louise Thomas.


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Half of Marlborough’s pensioners on accommodation benefit, housing experts warn


What: Stuff article by Chloe Ranford Local Democracy Reporter

In this Stuff article, Building Better Researchers Dr Bev James and Dr Kay Saville-Smith argue that rents in the Marlborough Council’s senior units were too high for many seniors. The council is looking to adjust their rental prices upward.

Bev said figures from the Ministry of Social Development showed almost half of the pensioners renting a house in the region, including many in council housing, were on the Accommodation Supplement – a benefit paid to those who could not afford their own housing costs.

“This, by definition, means their current rent is unaffordable.”

Housing researcher Dr Bev James says senior rents should be capped at 25 per cent of income. Photo: Chloe Ranford/LDR/Stuff.


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Where does housing fit into Budget 2021?


What: Scoop article
A Scoop article which interviews Building Better Researcher Dr Bev James on the Budget 2021 announcements in relation to housing.

“Research shows that new builds need to be targeted to affordable rental and purchase opportunities for low and modest income households. Therefore, price points of new builds need to be affordable to families and whānau.

“A large body of research shows that there is significant exposure to poorly performing housing, and links poor housing to negative impacts on health and wellbeing.

“The acceleration of new builds is clearly important. Our research shows that housing stress affects not just low-income households, but also modest income households, including in some regions, households with incomes above the regional household income median,” says Bev.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson announcing Budget 2021 highlights to media. Photo: Scoop.


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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.

Between 1986 and 2013, the proportion of Māori living in rental accommodation increased from 41% to 77% of Māori.


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Quality of life ultimate goal for ‘smart’ communities of any size

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.


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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: This infographic shows that 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.


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Legally blind teen gets just one flat viewing in three years in tough housing market


What: Stuff article, part of a series called Off the Ladder on housing affordablity, by reporter Geraden Cann

In March 2018, home-ownership was at its lowest in almost 70 years. Since then the median price has almost doubled and rent is up by a quarter. Stuff’s Off the Ladder series talks to those priced out of the market.

This article about legally blind student Roamen Humphris’s struggles to find a flat mentions work undertaken by the Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities Affordable Housing For Generations (AHFG) programme, led by researcher Kay Saville-Smith, which also found older people in rentals were much more likely to be disabled than those in their own homes.

Roamen Humphris is now on a waitlist for social housing and hopes to have a place of his own in time for university in 2022. Photo: Monique Ford/Stuff.


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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.


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Building solutions for people with dementia

Almost 70% of people living with dementia continue to do so in their own homes, rather than in residential care, despite this, research about building design solutions has primarily focused on residential care.

Building Better Homes and Spaces researchers have recently published two literature reviews examining research related to dementia-friendly housing design. They identify the housing issues for those living with dementia and the gaps around the existing research.

Lead researcher Dr Bev James said housing poses a challenge for many people with dementia, since cognitive impairments can hinder their ability to engage with and adapt to their living environment.

“Ideally, housing should address and adapt to their changing needs. In the review we focussed on building design elements that address entrance and exit solutions; self-navigation; day-to-day self-management and independence; enjoyment and ambience of the home; and the mitigation of behavioural issues that might lead to institutionalisation.”


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Older people’s housing experiences during COVID-19 response

Older people’s homes provide safety, security, and wellbeing – ideally with care and support to assist ageing in place. During the COVID-19 pandemic response at levels 3 (restrictions) and 4 (lockdown), the home-based bubble became the first line of protection and defence against the virus and was crucial to people’s ability to physically distance, quarantine, or isolate.

During this time, the home’s ability to support older people was especially critical with issues such as food security and accessing home-based care services being tested. A new research bulletin by Building Better researcher Dr Bev James from the Homes and Spaces for Generations team draws out key issues from interviews with fifteen community organisations and housing providers in eight locations throughout the country providing essential services during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Some community organisations have developed new ways of communicating with seniors and expanded existing channels in response to the limitations observed during the COVID-19 response. Photo: Nick Karvounis, UnSplash.


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Close to Home: Could second dwellings be a solution to the housing supply crisis?


What: Stuff Close to home news item, article and video by Nelson reporter Tim Newman

Could dividing your property into smaller flats or building a granny flat be the “silver bullet” to ease New Zealand’s housing supply crisis?

In a 2017 Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities report, it was estimated there were about 180,000 houses suitable for partitioning in New Zealand (according to 2013 census data).

Nelson City Councillor Matt Lawrey, left, and Architect Peter Olorenshaw at the site of a tiny house, built by Lou Perkins in Nelson. Photo: Martin De Ruyter/Stuff.


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Close to home: Why we need social housing more than ever


What: Stuff Close to home news item, article by Nelson reporter Samantha Gee

In the last 30 years, New Zealand’s population has grown by 1.2 million and around 90,000 homes have been built by the Government, local councils and community housing providers. Samantha Gee reports on the growing demand for social housing.

The article includes an interview with Building Better Homes and Spaces researcher Dr Kay Saville-Smith.

Carrie Mozena, director of Nelson Tasman Housing Trust with homes built by the trust in the Brook Valley, Nelson. Photo: Martin De Ruyter/Stuff.


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A house that is a home for whānau Māori

What makes a house a home for whānau Māori? What are the things that enable the ideal and what are some of the barriers?

In conversational interviews, Building Better researcher Dr Fiona Cram spoke with 27 Māori key informants about what makes a house a home for whānau Māori and how does housing support Whānau Ora (Māori collective wellbeing).

For many people, our social and material environment is a source of confidence in our self-identity. But Dr Cram says that for Māori, this material environment extends beyond the four walls of a home and into the whenua (land), emphasising the importance of place for a sense of belonging.

“Likewise, the social environment extends to encompass whānau who may live in multiple dwellings, as well as whakapapa (genealogy) connections with tipuna (ancestors) who have passed and mokopuna (grandchildren) yet to be born.”


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Essential workers struggling with overcrowding at home

A new Research Bulletin has found that some essential workers are dealing with overcrowding at home. The Building Better Affordable Housing for Generations team has found that while essential workers are out serving the nation they’re putting their children, partners, or housemates at risk due to a lack of space. Team co-leader Dr Kay Saville-Smith spoke to Mani Dunlop on RNZ Midday Report about the findings.

Following the ‘Read More’ link below for a PDF of the Research Bulletin.

Among essential worker households in rentals, 13 percent are crowded while a further 39 percent are not crowded but have no spare bedroom. Photo: Jonathan Borba, Pexels.


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Social mortgages and affordable housing

Could some of our problems with affordable housing be solved by establishing communities based on social mortgages where there are mutual responsibilities, shared values and close relationships? Building Better researchers James Berghan and David Goodwin from the University of Otago investigate.

‘Social Mortgage’ is a term we have coined to describe the principle of traditional socially based land tenure whereby social payments to communities are expected in the form of responsibilities and chores.

The Earthsong Eco-Neighbourhood in Ranui, West Auckland, has 32 homes cemented by relationships. Photo: build magazine.


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Too many costly homes

While more new houses are going up, they’re not necessarily ones that middle and low-income New Zealanders can afford, leaving the housing affordability crisis unresolved writes Building Better researcher Kay Saville-Smith in a recent issue of build magazine.

New Zealand is building more homes now than it has in the last 45 years. This is critical to make up the housing supply deficit of recent years, but as Ireland and other jurisdictions overseas have found, building more houses is not the same as building houses affordable to middle and low-income households.


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Simon Wilson on the housing crisis: What governments did wrong

A NZ Herald article (paywalled) by Simon Wilson features research by Building Better researcher Kay Saville-Smith.

“This is a story of collapse, all told in one remarkable graph.

“The graph was created by Kay Saville-Smith, a social scientist who specialises in housing. Saville-Smith knew there had been a long-term decline in the construction of low-cost housing. The Productivity Commission had already identified it. The purple line on her graph shows it. But she wanted to know why, so she pored through decades of raw data, looking for the cause.

“She found it,” writes Simon Wilson.

A PDF of the research behind the article can be found in our library section: Following the money – Understanding the building industry’s exit from affordable housing production

Building Better researcher Dr Kay Saville-Smith. Photo: Louise Thomas.


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Rigour and rigour mortis? Planning, calculative rationality, and forces of stability and change

Building Better researcher Iain White from the University of Waikato blogs about the influence of data. He examines the selection, application, and wider effects of ‘calculations’ in urban planning to better understand why, when we say we want urban areas to be more affordable and liveable, and we enjoy a stronger evidence base than ever before, were some of the outcomes deemed poor. The blog includes a link to Iain’s recently published paper in the Urban Studies Online Journal.


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A life together

“It’s a way of living that is often mistaken for either a ‘hippy commune’ or a boarding house, but cohousing is slowly becoming a viable solution to New Zealand’s growing housing needs. It’s also a way of fighting the isolation and loneliness that is harming our collective wellbeing.”

The Spinoff’s Leonie Hayden interviews Building Better researcher James Berghan about his research on social mortgages and co-housing.

“The social mortgage component was how you can bring in a social element to housing, which means you have a contract with your neighbours and you have to put work into it but you get social benefits as well. It shifts housing from a financial asset to a community asset that everyone has a stake in,” says James.

Thom Gill (centre) and neighbours of Cohaus muck in at the site of their future home. Photo: Prue Fea, The SpinOff.


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What is a social mortgage?

The Real Estate Institute of New Zealand writes about BBHTC research by James Berghan. James examines the different ways the built environment can deliver housing based on the idea of a “social mortgage”.

With the release of New Zealand’s first Wellbeing budget in late May 2019, it’s more obvious than ever that the built environment needs to move towards planning models that deliver social and environmental sustainability.

Deeply invested in the places they live and wanting to ensure their property provides spaces for generations, communities are looking for the option of alternative developments that aren’t subject to the same commercial demands as the open market.

While every household has their own self-sustaining home or unit, they may have shared spaces, such as a communal garden, a shared playground, or a full multi-purpose community building. Photo: UnSplash.


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Dr Fiona Cram, MNZM

BBHTC researcher Dr Fiona Cram was admitted as a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to Māori health and education. Fiona, Ngāti Pahauwera, is a member of the Kāinga Tahi, Kāinga Rua research team, as well as the Improving the architecture of decision-making team. She has been involved in a multitude of housing research projects, including “The Architecture of Decision-Making: Uncovering the dynamics that inhibit us getting the housing we all say we want” and “Building the Future with Good Homes for the People”.

Dr Fiona Cram, MNZM. Photo: Louise Thomas

Developers and financiers: impacts in the NZ housing market

Counter to the theory that developers and financiers simply respond to market wide forces of supply and demand, new research from Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities researcher Dr Larry Murphy of the University of Auckland says that developers and financiers actively create and operationalise practices that govern acceptable profit margins, operational structures, and house prices. In addition, access to finance and the conditions under which finance is offered have profound impacts on residential development practices and processes.

Under construction. Photo Louise Thomas.


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Building solutions for changing needs

New Zealand has struggled to deliver new builds that are accessible to all ages and abilities. Now, a Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities research project is looking at ways to deliver affordable functional housing, particularly for older people.

The Building solutions for affordable, functional housing in ageing and changing communities project is a collaboration between CRESA, Massey University, Public Policy and Research, and BRANZ.

The team expects to deliver their first research findings by late 2019.


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Auckland’s housing supply challenge

According to future projections, Auckland’s population will reach two million in 2033. Since the city is already afflicted by a serious housing crisis, at the beginning of 2017 the newly elected Mayor Phil Goff set up a task force. A Building Better Homes Towns and Cities National Science Challenge think-piece commissioned from Unitec researcher Paola Trapani explores the role that designers should play in this field. Its ideological position is that the house cannot and should not be considered as a commodity on the free market; nor should focus solely be on bringing down prices by increasing the number of houses on offer. Over time, housing might evolve to being more about social (use) value than exchange value.

Several new reports are now available from the research programme Auckland’s housing supply challenge: A Unitec response to the Mayoral Housing Taskforce Report. Please see our publications page for other titles.


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Remaking community

Models of land administration often promote the formalisation of land under multiple ownership to a more individualised, Western style of tenure, such as the British system of land tenure imposed on a communal Māori society. However, the dangers for Māori land under multiple ownership are that Māori values might become diluted or even lost in this transition as social responsibilities become divorced from land rights. Recognising this, planners of some Māori land development projects have sought to reintroduce key communal or socially-based tenure principles to the planning equation. But what are those principles? Are they succeeding? Do some principles produce better outcomes than others? And why might they work in some instances but not others?

Building Better’s Next Generation Information for Better Outcomes researchers James Berghan, David Goodwin, and Lyn Carter from the University of Otago presented and published research into community land ownership at the Remaking Cities conference in Melbourne earlier this year.


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Designed to disrupt: A digital tool for urban regeneration

Building Better’s Next Generation Information for Better Outcomes researchers Rita Dionisio and Mirjam Schindler discuss the new Envision Scenario Planner (ESP) in a column in Architecture Now magazine. The ESP is a free, web-based geo-spatial planning tool that uses digital, evidence-based information to assist the exploration of urban regeneration scenarios at a neighbourhood level.

The ESP was nominated as one of three finalists in the Environment and Sustainability category at the Asia-Pacific Spatial Excellence Awards held at Te Papa in Wellington in October, and it has recently received high praise for the way it embeds sustainability at every level. It was created to help planners and decision-makers assess the impact that different urban regeneration scenarios, building typologies, and open spaces will have on a range of outcomes.


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Resilience and housing markets

Research has found that some groups are inadvertently privileged in the housing market by existing resilience policy. Building Better’s Improving the architecture of decision-making Principal Investigator, Dr Iain White, and colleague Dr Graham Squires have published a report on resilience and housing markets in a top international journal, Land Use Policy. The report, Resilience and housing markets: Who is it really for?, examines how resilience theory and rhetoric relating to the economy and housing markets has been translated into policy and practice. The research includes a case study of Auckland, with a nationally dominant housing market and high unaffordability.

“By bringing these selectivities and limits to light we argue for a shift in focus away from an institutional frame to one with a deeper understanding of both the balance of an economy and the wider forces that create and reproduce housing markets.”


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Renting for the over 65s

Dr Kay Saville-Smith discusses the burgeoning renters sector on Radio New Zealand’s Lately with Karyn Hay, predicting that in 20 years’ time more than half of those over 65 will be renting – and even now many are turning to flatting.


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Special Housing Areas: Spaces in Contention

A new report by Building Better researcher Dr Bev James considers public consultation associated with the establishment of Special Housing Areas (SHAs) in the Western Bay of Plenty sub-region, how it affected decision-making about SHA developments, and what it tells us about people’s views of our homes, towns and cities.

Overall, 69 percent of the 603 submissions on SHA proposals were opposed, and the remainder were either supportive or neutral. Those opposed cited a range of perceived social and environmental impacts. Read the report for more details on public perceptions of SHAs.


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Designing housing decision-support tools for resilient older people

Our ageing populations make it critical that older people continue to live and participate in their communities. ‘Ageing in place’, rather than in residential care, is desired by older people themselves and promoted as policy in many countries. Its success, both as policy and practice, depends on housing. House performance, resilience, functionality and adaptability are all essential to maintaining independence. Three New Zealand research programmes have worked with older people to investigate issues around housing, ‘ageing in place’ and how older people and communities can become resilient to adverse natural events. Building Better’s Drs Bev James and Kay Saville-Smith from the Improving the architecture of decision-making team outline the research programmes in a paper published this month in the prestigious journal Architectural Science Review.


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Impact of covenants on affordable housing

New Zealand has an acute and persistent under-supply of housing, particularly affordable housing. It seems that privately-imposed covenants on residential land, which are growing in number, are having an almost unreported impact on affordable housing and housing affordability according to a new report by Craig Fredrickson and Kay Saville-Smith from the Improving the architecture of decision-making team.


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Tiny houses

A great article, outlining the tiny house movement in New Zealand, in the July/August issue of the New Zealand Geographic.

Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities National Science Challenge gets a mention for research analysing the property titles registered in Auckland over the past three decades, and the part that covenants can play to restrict smaller, affordable housing at a time when New Zealand desperately needs it.

The figures are still being finalised, but researcher Dr Kay Saville-Smith says it looks like about 55 per cent of Auckland residential titles in 2017 had a covenant – compared with less than 10 per cent in 1980. Very often, those covenants mandate large dwellings, she says.

“The worst I’ve seen is a minimum of 245 square metres. You’ll hear a lot about how affordable housing is affected by planning regulations; that’s a typical public narrative. You don’t hear a lot about the use of covenants – anyone can put them on, but they’re very hard to get rid of.”


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Three new publications available

Three new publications are available from the team at Improving the architecture of decision-making. These are: Tenure insecurity and exclusion: older people in New Zealand’s rental market; Revitalising the production of lower value homes: Researching dynamics and outcomes; and Declining egalitarianism and the battle for affordable housing in New Zealand. All three papers were presented at the European Network of Housing Researchers Conference in Uppsala, Sweden, 27-29 June 2018.


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Government Minister says elderly housing needs cannot be overlooked

What is the future of housing for our elderly? Minister for Seniors Tracey Martin weighs in on the affordable housing debate. Stuff article which includes reference to a paper written by BBHTC’s Dr Kay Saville-Smith and Dr Bev James, as part of a consultation process about the ageing population, highlighting how New Zealand’s future older population will mostly live in rentals, as home ownership rates have continued to fall over the last 15 years.

Image: Architecture of Decision-Making Principal Investigator Dr Kay Saville-Smith.


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Unlocking transport innovation

A working paper to understand the regulatory and decision-making logics, processes and practices that determine the street design solutions that become part of our built environment and transport infrastructure has recently been published by the Architecture of Decision-making research team. Report authors Simon Opit and Karen Witten consider a proposal to install a novel type of pedestrian crossing, as part of a neighbourhood intervention, to investigate the architecture of decision-making that influences our urban environments.


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Dr Kay Saville-Smith receives NZ Order of Merit

One of Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities lead researchers in the Architecture of Decision Making research programme, Dr Kay Saville-Smith, has been awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2018 Queen’s Birthday Honours.


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London solution to Kiwi housing crisis

Dr Kay Saville-Smith from the Building Better Homes, Towns & Cities Architecture of Decision Making research team discusses partitioning homes to provide “new” affordable housing options with Rob Stock of Business Day

Brick houses in Muswell Hill, London, where many houses have been partitioned into individual flats. Image: Royalty-free for non-commercial editorial, by Zoltan Gabor.


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Vicious to Virtuous Homes and Cities in an Ageing New Zealand

Two new presentations are available from Building Better National Science Challenge researcher Dr Kay Saville-Smith. They are An Eco-response to Housing Under-Supply, Costly Cities and Our Need for Affordable Housing – ADUs and Partitioning, a presentation to the Guaranteeing Healthy Homes – The Eco Design Advisor Conference 2018, held in Wellington, and Vicious to Virtuous Homes and Cities in an Ageing New Zealand – Hard and Soft Design, a presentation to the Room to Region: Age-Friendly Environmental Design and Planning in the Western Asia-Pacific Symposium, held in mid-March at the Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan.

Study casts doubt on effectiveness of Special Housing Areas in Tauranga

Building Better National Science Challenge researcher Dr Bev James has studied the 15 SHAs in the Tauranga and Western Bay of Plenty districts and questions whether Special Housing Areas are actually providing affordable homes in Tauranga.

An aerial view of Papamoa East, where nine out of 14 Special Housing Areas in Tauranga are located. Photo: Andrew Warner, Bay of Plenty Times


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Passive Low-Energy Architecture 2017: Design to Thrive

On 2 to 5 July 2017, Edinburgh, Scotland, hosted the 33rd Passive and Low-Energy Architecture (PLEA) conference. Cresa’s Kay Saville-Smith and Dr Bev James from the BBHTC Understanding and Re-tooling the Architecture and Logistics of Decision-making research programme presented a paper on Resilience, Ageing, and Adapting to Change. The pair writes that an ageing population coupled with environmental sustainability are two of the biggest challenges facing societies today. “Architecture and urban design are pivotal factors in the challenge of aging well. Population ageing is inevitable and irrefutable. The resilience, sustainability and functionality of our dwellings and the built environment are key to realising the benefits of the longevity dividend, of living well, as well as long. Homes in particular not only reflect the social and economic conditions of their occupants, but can also dictate them. They ideally, can meet the everyday needs and preferences of older citizens and their lifestyles, and additionally provide crucial protection against extreme events and other hazards.”


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Building more houses does not make them affordable

Professor Laurence Murphy says relying on simply building more houses is not an effective pathway to generating affordable housing as the market is very good at producing market prices. He discusses the challenges of Special Housing Areas with Grant Walker on NBR Radio.


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How we can build the kind of housing we want and need

If New Zealand is ever to produce enough affordable housing to meet the needs of low and middle income earners, such as service workers, teachers and nurses, it must take action using positive planning and investment.


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New Zealand’s hidden homes

New research offers practical, community-based solutions to New Zealand’s housing crisis by turning existing stock into far more affordable, fit-for-purpose homes.

A new report from the Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities National Science Challenge shows around 12% of New Zealand’s housing stock is significantly under-utilised and many houses could be partitioned to deliver up to 180,000 new dwellings.

The ADU Potential report suggests that the Auckland region has a potential 45,000 partitionable dwellings. Meanwhile, at the other end of the scale, Marlborough has around 2,000 partitionable dwellings. These dwellings would not impinge on greenfield sites or unutilised vacant land. There is also opportunity to introduce other forms of accessory dwellings (ADUs).


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Decoding housing messages

In the 2017 election year, housing has been a hot-button issue with politicians, broader government and the public. What is it about these overarching themes of social justice and wellbeing that capture our attention? By looking at how politicians have defined New Zealand’s housing problems, particularly supply and affordability, researchers hope to better understand how diverse messages are translated into policy and practice.


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Investing in affordable homes

While central and local government are encouraging new builds and the release of land for residential purposes, high numbers of residential new builds are not affordable housing for those with limited resources.

Up to the 1980s, New Zealand enjoyed a steady supply of affordable housing, but now there is a serious shortage in many centres. A National Science Challenge project seeks new ways to address this issue.


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Land costs and affordability

It has become taken for granted that the cost of housing is driven by land prices. Certainly, the land price is generally the biggest ticket item in the cost structure of a new build.

Builders and developers say the cost of land is a major barrier to building dwellings that low-income and middle-income households can afford. A National Science Challenge project is looking at what drives land prices.


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