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New book points the way on housing affordability

Wellington campus

Monday 19 August 2013 3:50pm

A decent supply of affordable and social housing requires a concerted effort from government and the private sector as well as community groups, says Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman from the University of Otago, Wellington.

She is one of the editors of a new book called Homes People Can Afford, being launched tomorrow at the National Library by Housing New Zealand CEO Glen Sowry.


“We pay as a society for the costs of not building affordable housing - either to buy or rent - through hospital bills, poor school performances and stressed families who are unable to put down social roots in communities,” Professor Howden-Chapman says.

Contributors to Homes People Can Afford analyse the problem and provide solutions from a number of perspectives – historical, political, social, economic and architectural. The book has been written to inform the current housing debates, as well as providing innovative examples of different housing partnerships and affordable housing designs.

The crisis of affordable and social and housing, particularly in Auckland and Christchurch, has dramatically heightened the importance of the shortage of supply of affordable and social housing, Professor Howden-Chapman says.

Interior perspective of a nano whare

Among the design ideas explored in the book are architect Rau Hoskins’ nano whare – a modern, transportable, sustainable, small-scale interpretation of traditional Māori architecture that has been designed to house a single person – and the Living Ark Trust’s customised modular housing – a house frame that can be assembled in one third of the time and at half the cost of a traditionally constructed house.

Professor Howden-Chapman says the main focus of the book is the concept of partnership to increase investment in affordable housing.

The book describes the history of market failure and government failure in supplying an adequate supply of affordable and social housing, and outlines different governments’ responses and possible policy combinations. It profiles international case studies of best practice as well as New Zealand models for the provision of affordable housing that draw on the concept of partnership, between central and local government, the private sector and community groups, such as the Wellington City Housing and the Wellington Community Housing Trust.

Professor Howden-Chapman emphasises the book contributors’ shared belief about the importance of high quality, low cost housing, but that there is no single solution for the provision of affordable housing.

“The problem has evolved over time, shaped by political and economic decisions, and needs a comprehensive and strategic response. Our hope is that Homes People Can Afford will underline the urgency of addressing the problem, and motivate action through the striking examples we’ve given of opportunity and success.”

For further information contact:

Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman
Department of Public Health University of Otago, Wellington
Tel 64 4 918 6047
Mob 64 27 220 1620

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