Project Auckland: Caroline Butterworth: Housing solutions for Aucklanders

OPINION:

Auckland has always been an attractive place to live. The name Tāmaki Makaurau literally means “Tāmaki, desired by many”. Already home to one-in-three people living in New Zealand, Statistics NZ projects Auckland’s population to hit 2 million somewhere around 2030.

Significantly, within a few years of that milestone, the number of Aucklanders aged 65+ will exceed the number of children aged 0-14, and the 40-64 age group will become the largest overall.

In addition, Auckland’s attractiveness to, and need for, workers from around the world is set to re-intensify as international borders reopen post-pandemic. This will bring in people who don’t necessarily view the ideal city home as a single storey bungalow with a backyard.

Auckland, just a couple of America’s Cup defences from now, will be noticeably more populous, older, and more ethnically diverse. This means the way Aucklanders want to live, work and move about the city will continue to change with the demographics.

These sorts of challenges are one reason Kāinga Ora — the agency which replaced Housing New Zealand, KiwiBuild, and the Crown’s large-scale residential developer HLC — was established in 2019.

The Auckland Housing Programme, which began in 2016, has already delivered about 4500 public homes, on top of hundreds of market and affordable homes delivered mostly through private developers purchasing build-ready land. The early phases of that programme have relied on Crown agencies using primarily their own land, their own borrowing and their own future rental income to fund and build the new homes.

This has been possible in areas where public housing was already well-established — such as Mt Roskill or Avondale — or, in the case of Hobsonville Point, where a large area of defence land was surplus to requirements. But redeveloping the neighbourhoods with large areas of Crown-owned land doesn’t go far enough to properly equip Auckland for the decades ahead.

Getting the right mix of housing across all of Auckland requires a bigger picture mentality, and a willingness to collaborate.

That means continuing to deliver plenty of warm, dry, environmentally-efficient public housing at pace, whil working with local government, iwi and other Māori organisations, private developers, the construction industry and community housing providers to find solutions in the private housing market to ensure Auckland grows in the right way.

One example of how Kāinga Ora can positively influence Auckland’s future direction is through our relationship with the construction sector. Acting as Auckland’s largest and most durable residential developer, rather than as just another client of the sector, Kāinga Ora is looking to increase predictability of future work by publishing our pipeline of future building intentions, and effectively contracting work in bulk through longterm agreements with build partners.

We also work alongside school and tertiary training programmes to provide meaningful work experience and apprenticeship opportunities for students in places like Massey High School, where trades students build houses that will become homes for Kāinga Ora customers in Auckland.

In the near future, Kāinga Ora will release plans to boost offsite manufacture of new homes. Offsite manufacture has massive potential to speed up construction, reduce costs, and improve building site safety. Local manufacturing capacity is being held back, partly because there is no guarantee of demand for anyone who takes the risk on building the assembly lines needed.

By publishing information about the type and location of future homes, as well as potential to partner up to deliver more offsite manufactured developments, Kāinga Ora can help investors and manufacturers have confidence that the demand will be there for their product.

Auckland is far from alone in having problems accommodating growth and ensuring access to quality housing for everyone, but it has challenges that don’t affect other regions to the same extent. For instance, transport makes up about 40 per cent of Auckland’s carbon emissions, and the infrastructure burden from growing ever outwards is becoming unsustainable. That means the onus is on Kāinga Ora and other central and local government players to plan communities where people can live, work, and play without total dependence on cars.

It also means creating deep and lasting relationships with mana whenua and the communities where we hope to accommodate the newest Aucklanders in the coming decades, to ensure Tāmaki Makaurau remains desired by many.

– Caroline Butterworth is Kāinga Ora deputy chief executive, Auckland and Northland.

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