Archives for category: housing

The Once In A Lifetime crew are getting together tomorrow night for a discussion about housing in Christchurch. Full info is as follows:

Talking Heads #2: Anna Langley, Dr Alistair Humphrey and Garry Moore in conversation with Barnaby Bennett

6pm – 7pm, June 24th, at Switch Espresso, New Brighton Mall (opposite Fish n Chicken)
The team behind the book Once in a Lifetime: City-building after Disaster in Christchurch is pleased to present the second edition of Talking Heads, a series of talks that explore the current state of play in Christchurch and expand upon some of the themes and issues discussed in Once in a Lifetime.

Join us out east for a discussion about housing: is there a housing crisis?

With our panel participants we hope to open up the conversation to look at some of the many issues that feed into housing: affordability, health and wellbeing, quality of housing and so on.

Barnaby Bennett, one of the book’s editors and architecture PhD student, hosts this event and will field questions from the floor.

Anna Langley is on the board of Tenants Protection Association and is a facilitator of a community hub which delas with social issues . Dr Alistair Humphrey is the Canterbury Medical Officer of Health and Garry Moore is a former mayor and runs the not-for profit Your Home, which buys houses in the east and moves them to sections elsewhere in Canterbury in an attempt to provide affordable housing to lower income families.

Copies of Once in a Lifetime: City-building after Disaster in Christchurch will be available for $40.

Advertisements

One the one hand, I think this is a good initiative. The council land from the old Henderson deal being using for housing. They look good and Welles St would be a great place to live at the moment.

On the other hand, the old “affordable” chestnut comes up again. $450,000 is affordable? Affordable for whom? There are still actual houses with actual backyards for sale in Christchurch under $400,000. Some aren’t much more than $300,000. So I can’t see how an apartment, with no land attached, on the outskirts of a CBD with little to no amenity value, can justify a $450k price tag. Or more than that, as 80% of the units will be. It might be affordable relative to Auckland, but this isn’t Auckland.

I’m genuinely interested in what the comparative cost of something similar in Wellington or Dunedin might be, and whether the economics of this stack up.

Patrick Reynolds over at Transportblog has a post looking at two ads for development property in Auckland and Christchurch. It’s short so I’ll repost the whole thing:

For those interested in the divergence of development patterns in New Zealand cities it is hard not to be struck by this page in the weekend’s real estate section. Auckland is still growing out, but it is also growing up. Christchurch not so much, just out. Time will tell which model better suits the demands of this century. This also clearly illustrates how Auckland is an exception in NZ in more ways than just its size:

I was thinking about Christchurch’s sprawl issues over the weekend. We had an opportunity to restrict the sprawl of the city across the plains, but that horse has well and truly bolted. That horse now lives in Rolleston, commutes to work in Addington, and drops the kids at school in Riccarton on the way. And unless the government actively steps in to proactively encourage residential development in the CBD, I can’t see any end to this short-term urban planning.

I was on the plane to Auckland on Saturday, and instead of reading more of my boring book I flicked back through a series of older newspaper articles that I’ve meant to read for a while. One was this piece from the head of Warren and Mahoney, Peter Marshall. He is talking about housing in the eastern frame, and is pretty boosterish about it. He says that we should be building affordable housing – great!

Christchurch has apartments now on the west side between the central city and Hagley Park but they are fairly high end.

“What was missing was an affordable townhouse which is where that is going to be pitched.”

What is affordable?

“$500,000, $600,000, there might even be some less.”

THIS GUY THINKS THAT $600,000 IS AN AFFORDABLE HOUSE. JUST THINK ABOUT THAT FOR A BIT.

Ok.

Are you still digesting that – I’ll give you another moment.

Right.

To put that in context, here are some other numbers:

Whereas the average house price before the quakes had been around $310,000, an average new home including land would now cost between $450,000 and $550,000.

Those figures – from the Salvation Army – come with this additional, understated comment:

“This difference is likely to be the continuing source of housing stress for many households for many years to come.”

If you take the mid-point of that latter bracket – $500,000 – then the average house price has gone up $190,000 in 5 years. That is pretty much 10% a year, each year since the quakes. If people’s wages had been going up 10% a year, I think we’d know about it. They haven’t. Saying that things aren’t as bad as they are in the Auckland housing market is irrelevant; here we had a major disaster, and the government has a duty of care to ensure that the people of Christchurch suffer as little as possible.

Despite repeated warnings of a housing crisis, National refuses to accept that there is anything wrong. And why would they? They are the party of property prices; they returned a stunning result in Christchurch at the last election, and I reckon that is in large part due to many, many people feeling very good about the increasing value of their property portfolio. That this dude can say that $600,000 – twice what the average house cost just five years ago – is an “affordable” home with a straight face shows how totally broken the market is.

No-one is going to provide affordable housing that is actually affordable for the people who need it. In the short term, this will serve the government and it’s allies; the head of the CCDU Warwick Isaacs is about to leave so he can join Stonewood Homes, a builder of cookie-cutter landfill subdivisions in which half the houses failed their inspections. In the long term, Christchurch will become a city that is only affordable for the homogenous, white middle-class that CERA depicts in their advertising, whilst the poor, the working class, the migrants, the students and the people who generally make cities interesting places to live give up on the White Man’s Dream and head for greener pastures.

Last week, I looked up the Live Central Christchurch website, after a giant billboard for it went up opposite the Commons. It is a remarkable piece of propaganda from the CCDU, and the homogeneity of it has caused a few, much deserved, heckles.

A reader who contacted The Press called it “outrageous”.

“Look at how white and middle-class they seem to think the people who will be living in the future Christchurch are. It’s really quite offensive how narrow this demographic is,” he said.

This was followed by some sensible comments from Cr Johanson, and some idiot utterances from Cr Gough:

Cr Jamie Gough, who lived in the central city until recently, took the reader’s point but said the promotion deserved credit for avoiding “social engineering”. It did not offend him.

“This is just real-life people enjoying living in the central city. Sometimes, real isn’t always the most politically correct,” Gough said.

Gough said some even stupider things on his Facebook, which Moata has rightly skewered, and you should all read along. What Gough fails to understand, whilst he bandies about comically-meaningless terms like “PC gone mad” and “social engineering”, is that Live Central’s vision, and his support for it is social engineering. This is someone with a history of bigotry, who famously slagged off a large proportion of the city’s population as bogans just because they went to the beach at the same time as him. Asking him for a nuanced take on socio-political issues is like milking a cow and expecting to get eggs. The people in the picture might be real people who really live in the CBD, and he may not see a problem with that.

He should.

That the people selected for the campaign are uniformly white, middle-class and largely in the same age bracket is the problem. We know that New Zealand has a very diverse – and diversifying – population. We know that there are significant numbers of people with disabilities. We know that we have an ageing population. So to have a subset of people – even if they do really live in the CBD – which doesn’t acknowledge any of these things is ‘social engineering’ in itself.

I disagree with Moata on some things though; I don’t think this is a good campaign. Aside from presenting a white-washed view of living in the CBD, it white-washes the reality of central city living. I’ve lived in the CBD since December 2013, and I’ve got to say, it’s pretty weird. I’m not the only one who thinks that. While you would expect a promotional website to be bullish, some of the claims are closer to bullshit. The purpose of the site is to attract people to live in the CBD; to encourage that, they have listed a bunch of residential developments. None of these projects seem to be at the “affordable” end of the scale, which makes you wonder whether there are enough upper middle-class people who wanted to live in the CBD for them to be able to reach their 20,000 person target.

As a central city resident, I’d love to see more people live here. It would improve my quality of life markedly; more people would mean more shops and cafes. It’d mean that we’d be more likely to be listened to about issues that directly effect us. But this half-hearted, homogenous campaign looks to be a reflection of the CCDU’s commitment to making this happen; a poorly thought-out attempt at making something happen through marketing. If CERA genuinely wanted more people to live in the central city, they could address the main factor preventing this happening – the cost of land. Maybe then we can see a campaign in another 5 or 10 years that more accurately reflects the diversity that makes up 21st century New Zealand.

Last week, Paulette Barr saw the Prime Minister in Riccarton mall and bravely approached him with her story. It was a bleak story, and got plenty of media attention – front page of the Press, story on Campbell Live. A week later, some good news – Barr’s claim has now been “fast-tracked”, and Christchurch Central MP Nicky Wagner has become involved.

While I am happy for Barr – no-one should be going through these situations almost 4 years after the quakes – this story actually makes me more upset. It’s shouldn’t be like this. You shouldn’t have to rely on a chance encounter with the Prime Minister to get any movement on your claim. There are thousands of cases like this in Christchurch right now – how can we get them all “fast-tracked”? On the same day that we get the happy resolution story, we also have this – a homeowner living in a 3 degree house after repeatedly being told different things by EQC.

What we need in Christchurch is an admission the EQC and insurance process for fixing houses is fundamentally broken. We need the Minister of EQC, Gerry Brownlee, to answer questions as to why it has got to this point. Instead of merely patching up cases when they reach the media, the whole culture of these organisations needs to change. Their role is to help people. They shouldn’t have to be guilted into doing so by the media.

photo from the Press, by Iain McGregor

Yesterday, the Prime Minister was in town for a big-ticket announcement in a bigtop tent. Unfortunately, events got in the way, and the convention centre has been over shadowed by an impassioned plea made to John Key while he was out looking for votes in Riccarton Mall. Paulette Barr was at her wit’s end, so decided the best way to get some traction on her case was to put it to the PM directly:

“I was just saying, ‘Look, what can you do for us, it’s three years. We had liquefaction come right through our house. They had to remove the skirting boards because the liquefaction had gone in and contaminated the place,” the 61-year-old said.

Barr and her house-mate, Maureen Doherty, 74, said they had put their lives on hold since February 2011 as they waited for an over-cap EQC and NZI private insurance claim to progress on their Hills Rd property.

While Key might think he’s coming down to sing of the brighter future song sheet, he’s finding that people still have the helplessness blues. It’s a sure sign of how desperate the situation has become, how broken the process of dealing with EQC and insurance has become, how out of touch his Minister Brownlee has become, that the only way people think they are going to get anything resolved is by appealing directly to John – either the PM Key, or people’s champion, Campbell.

I’ve just been down at the launch of Labour’s housing policy for Christchurch, which is one of the key parts of our Kick-starting the Recovery package. Part of it will see 10,000 Kiwibuild homes built in Christchurch over the first 4 years of a Labour-led government. Further to that, 3,000 of them would be earmarked as affordable rental housing, as a way of immediately making rents more affordable. The venue for the launch was the Oxford Terrace Baptist church, up on the corner of the Chester St and Madras.

Phil Twyford, looking in his bag for some housing policy

As our housing spokesperson Phil Twyford announced the policy, he had to speak up to be heard over the sound of Centennial Pool being destroyed. But the main reason for having the launch where we did is that we want to use this policy to bring people back into the centre city. Between a third and a half of the 10,000 homes will be medium density builds within the centre city, including some in the land designated for the frame. This is an example of how we believe that the Government should be more involved in the urban design of the city:

Labour will kickstart the redevelopment of the city centre, working with the Council, the community and developers to bring people back into the heart of the city. We will create a vibrant urban community with affordable medium-density housing. We will take the same approach to the revitalisation of New Brighton, and other suburban and town centres such as Addington, Riccarton, Spreydon, Kaiapoi, Rangiora and Rolleston. We will build mixed income communities where people can live, work and play, with high urban design standards, green space, and decent infrastructure.

The current government’s “hands-off” approach to urban design has clearly failed, but it’s not too late for us to turn this around. We can still create a city that builds back communities, then works with them to create a liveable, workable city.

 

So the World Cup has started! I jumped out of bed for the first time in a while, put on my All Whites shirt (never stop believing) and settled in for what was a pretty good game. Sure, dodgy decisions, bad keeping, but there was an comedy own goal from Brazil’s pantomime villain, and that fancy spray paint. Aside from when New Zealand flukes an appearance, I support France. I don’t really know why. They’re either amazing, or amazingly terrible. Their implosion in 2010 was almost as good as Zidane’s fantastic headbutt in 2006.

One of the leaders of the 2010 mutiny, wannabe Bond villain Franck Ribery, has been ruled out with injury, which is a massive plus. The Ribery-less Les Bleus demolished Jamaica 8-0 earlier in the week, and looked much better without him. I don’t think they will win it, but maybe leave after a comical on-field dustup between team mates in the quarter final.

Speaking of the French … the Press’s Cecile Meier has a column today which suggests some French fixes for our broken rental housing market:

Now let’s look at Billye Jean Rangihuna’s French double, Jeanne-Billois Roquefort. Her rent could only be increased once a year and the raise would be capped to a government-issued index (usually under 3 per cent) based on inflation.

At the end of her three-year rental contract, Roquefort’s landlord could hike the rent more, but only if it was significantly undervalued compared to market rates. To do so, they would have to give six months’ notice. Even then Roquefort could refuse the increase, in which case the landlord would have to go to a conciliation commission.

The French system arguably puts lots of pressure on landlords. But tenants are usually the more vulnerable party in the tenancy relationship and therefore need protection.

There is plenty of evidence that tenants in Christchurch are being exploited by the invisible hand of the market, and it has to stop. And speaking of French socialism:

A stunning finding of the report is that no one actually knows who holds the French debt. To finance its debt, the French state, like any other state, issues bonds, which are bought by a set of authorised banks. These banks then sell the bonds on the global financial markets. Who owns these titles is one of the world’s best kept secrets. The state pays interests to the holders, so technically it could know who owns them. Yet a legally organised ignorance forbids the disclosure of the identity of the bond holders.

Hence, the audit on the debt concludes, some 60% of the French public debt is illegitimate.

The author tracks a story of French debt that looks very similar to what has happened in New Zealand over the last generation. He posits an internationalism in which the working classes free themselves from the financialism that has obsessed Western governments for the last 30 years:

The nascent global movement for debt audits may well contain the seeds of a new internationalism – an internationalism for today – in the working classes throughout the world. This is, among other things, a consequence of financialisation. Thus debt audits might provide a fertile ground for renewed forms of international mobilisations and solidarity.

One of my many hobbies on this site is to collect together to works of Peter Townsend, one of the rebuild’s greatest cheerleaders, and the head of the Employers Chamber of Commerce. Mostly they are about how the rebuild is “about to crank up” or that “you can smell the money”. This is a new favourite:

Everyone I talk to that is repairing their house or rebuilding their house is putting more capital in than the insurance company, because they’re putting betterment in. So you have $200,000 worth of damage to your house you’re going to put a new kitchen in, you’re going to put a new bathroom in for another $40,000-$50,000 and do above and beyond what the like-for-like replacement of your insurance policy will allow you to do.

Everyone Townsend talks to is putting in a new kitchen; whereas everyone I talk to on the streets of Ilam is worried about their landlord putting rent up, about the power bills for winter, about whether Housing New Zealand is going to kick them out. This really is a tale of two cities: the one where the quakes were a minor inconvenience resulting in a new master bedroom with an ensuite, and the one where rent has gone up 40% in the last year but there is still a queue of 50 lining up to lease it.