To own a home: 10 housing hacks


Martin Luff, co-founder and director of Space Craft Systems.

Wellington mayor Justin Lester’s $5000 rebate scheme for first home builders kicks off today. It’s hoped the stipend will encourage new buyers into the market and boost the sluggish construction industry. Next week he meets Singapore officials to discuss their housing solutions. Stuff looks at local and international housing hacks. 

1. Go slowly  

Imagine starting your first home with a modest cube that could be expanded as your family, or salary, grew. That’s the genesis behind Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena’s Elemental social housing design in Quinta Monroy, Iquique.  Essentially half-homes – rudimentary buildings with necessities like a modest kitchen and bathroom – residents have the prospect of adding onto the complexes when they can afford it. The concept was introduced to Palestine last year and the buildings, in Gaza and the West Bank, were pitched as ‘homes that grow with their residents’. 

*NZ and overseas companies asked to ramp up prefab ops for Kiwibuild
*First-home buyers’ extra bill
*How to get a deposit together to buy a house

2. Incentivise 

John Tookey, head of the built environment school at Auckland University of Technology says New Zealand has enough houses, a select group of people just own too many of them. 

Tookey says we need to incentivise owners of rental properties to offload them to first-home buyers. One incentive could include allowing sellers of properties to invest their capital gains tax-free into their Kiwisaver if they sold to a first-home buyer. 

3. Back to basics (who needs floor detailing and decoration anyway?) 

In a similar vain, a project backed by London mayor Sadiq Kahn, has gained traction in England. Non-profit developers Naked House – a London startup – builds basic homes for half of the NZ$900,000 price of the typical London home by creating the bare basics, walls and floors, without so much as a lick of paint. Buyers can improve the home at their leisure. While the Guardian called the homes ‘spartan’ proponents praise the no frills, cheap approach.  

4. A little bit of policy 

Wellington mayor Justin Lester says it’s a “sad reality” that desperation leads to creativity in the hunt for affordable homes. “In Paris, for example, the city aims for 25 percent of dwellings to be publicly owned so that young people, families and key workers can afford to live in the city. These are houses for police officers, nurses, firefighters, hospitality workers, cleaners – people that are critical for the success and vibrancy of a city. If we have cities that price those people out of town, or force them into subsistent living, we will create something dystopian.” 

5. Build faster 

El Salvador is set to make history where residents of slums are preparing to move into a development of 3D printed homes. In Austin Texas the developer, ICON, printed its first 33sqm 3D home in two days, which is now occupied. The group is now set on printing homes in developing countries and plan to produce 100 of the homes in Central American slums at an estimated cost of up to $10,000. And over in the Netherlands in 2019 they’re set to start 3D printing concrete homes.

6. End homelessness 

Finland has been heralded as the only country in Europe to slash homelessness rates and has nearly eradicated it entirely. The Nordic country’s solution was simple – give the homeless a permanent home and set them up for life rather than managing them through various agencies in the vain hope of finding them permanent accommodation eventually. The Government has built homes specifically for the homeless and supports them to manage their homes and income subsequently.

922018 Photo: ROSA WOODS/STUFF
Stoats, possums, and rats could be pests-of-the-past as Wellington sets an ambitious goal ...


922018 Photo: ROSA WOODS/STUFF
Stoats, possums, and rats could be pests-of-the-past as Wellington sets an ambitious goal to be predator-free by 2025. The move would mean Mayor Justin Lester would be able honour one of his campaign pledges – to bring kiwi back to central Wellington.

Wellington mayor Justin Lester at the Brooklyn wind turbine.

7. Open source ‘wiki designing’ 

Christchurch- based Spacecraft Systems founders Martin Luff and Danny Squires formed the organisation in the post-quake city. They coined the ‘WikiHouse’ approach to building, essentially open sourcing a home by sourcing designs from all over the world, manufacturing the kit set pieces locally -the pieces are made from plywood – and assembling the home with volunteers with just pegs and a mallet. 

8. Rid the red tape

Businesswoman and property expert Leonie Freeman says innovation is not enough. “One of the issues facing many of these groups is the blockages created by compliance and regulatory procedures imposed by Government agencies, the difficulty in getting consenting approval through Council, the challenges of securing Government procurement projects, and the challenge of being able to fund new innovative ideas whilst all the approvals are obtained,” she says. “We need to be much smarter about how we can create innovative solutions, test them to ensure they are safe and acceptable for New Zealand and then get them implemented.” 

9. Go smaller 

Good use of space is the new ‘indoor/outdoor flow’. From micro apartments popping up in New York City, Hong Kong and Tokyo, to the tiny home movement seen in New Zealand, the quarter acre section is now a thing of the past. Far from giving up convenience your more advanced tiny home designs can see walls fold out to become decks or new rooms, floors become tables or storage, and pop out shelving to show off to guests. 

10. Improve social housing, improve ownership

Singapore’s home ownership rates are as high as 90 per cent, mostly credited to its social housing policy which saw the island nation grow its housing stock rapidly – building more than 30,000 basic flats in three years. “In the space of 50 years, the government has been able to increase publicly owned housing stock from virtually nil to 80 percent of all housing,” Lester says. 

“That’s how they keep it affordable for their population and continue to grow their economy. We need to have a similar type of ambition if we want to keep our city open to everyone.”

Escher tiny house by New Frontier Tiny Homes 25.9.17


Escher tiny house by New Frontier Tiny Homes 25.9.17


 – Sunday Star Times

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