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The housing crisis is still not getting better and here’s why

When you crunch the numbers on Auckland’s housing crisis, the result is clear: we’re still going backwards. So why aren’t we changing our approach? Leonie Freeman thinks she has a solution.

Even before we dial up the numbers, it’s clear we are in an uncomfortable space. Changing policies, high level cluelessness, a demand-supply failure and a radical disconnect between the public and private sectors have all contributed to what is now widely acknowledged as a crisis for Auckland housing.

The extent of the media coverage alone reinforces the fact that this is Auckland’s Public Enemy Number One – and it looks like being the Number One Election issue come September 23.

Going beyond impressions and scraps of information, what do the hard numbers tell us?

How many houses are we currently short? 

According to a housing supply and demand forecast produced in September 2016, Treasury estimates there is currently a shortfall of 35,000 houses in Auckland.

How many do we need to build? 

The Auckland Council Unitary Plan published in 2015 assumes that Auckland needs to build an additional 420,000 more homes by 2045. That equates to 14,000 each year for the 30-year period. It’s more than a little sobering to realise the goal is two-and-a-half times more than what we’ve actually managed over the past quarter century!

How many homes are we currently consenting?

In the last year Auckland reached 10,000 homes consented. The previous two years were 8,650 for the year end 2015 and 6,900 in 2014.

MBIE estimates that the future number of consents will continue to increase this year but then decline from 2018. Consumer Warning: Just because a home is consented, it doesn’t mean it will actually be built, as we see when we ask the question:

How many homes have we actually completed?

The numbers being completed are far less than those consented. Statistics from Auckland Council show that last year 7,200 houses were built. For 2015 and 2014 respectively, 6,520 and 5,550 were completed.

So crunch on this – even with all the focus on housing of the last nine years, we are barely completing half the number we need.

Which leads to the next question:

When do we acknowledge that what we’re doing isn’t working and isn’t going to work?

Surely, it’s way past time to be clinging to a failed approach. Luckily there is a better way.

The alternative I’ve been advocating is based on genuine partnership. It would see all the players – government, council, iwi, developers, the community housing sector and the finance community – single-mindedly focused on how we get more homes built and how we make more of them affordable.

I launched a comprehensive solution on my website thehomepage.nz in October 2016. It entails four key steps:

  • Defining the vision by identifying where Auckland wants to go and what success looks like.
  • Using an approach called Collective Impact to ensure the ideas can be implemented. This is a practice adopted both within this country and globally to solve complex problems – ensuring that everyone is working together towards the same goals, taking responsibility for real outcomes and monitoring progress against measurable timelines.
  • Creating a housing framework, first to make sense of the problem and second, to establish where all the pieces of the housing jigsaw fit.
  • A purposeful and practical action plan which ensures we are clear and transparent about where we are going and how we can get there together.

Here is a sample of the outcomes I am confident could be achieved using this approach:

  • 420,000 new homes by 2045 with 125,000 built by 2025 – 50 percent of them classified as “affordable”.
  • 3000 more social housing places by end of next year.
  • An end to homelessness in central Auckland by 2022.
  • More and better tenure options for renters and tenants.
  • Home ownership levels, which have been falling sharply, to be back up to 65 percent by 2025, across all demographic sectors.

You can find more detail about the tangible targets and what we will do to achieve them on my website, thehomepage.nz.

This is about more than just talking, though talking together in a focused way isn’t a bad start. It’s about how we achieve, collaboratively, a long-term fix for Auckland’s housing crisis. It’s about getting the houses we need built. Nothing less will do.

Leonie Freeman is a housing strategist and a leader with an unusual breadth of insight into the New Zealand property sector, having held top positions in both the private and public sectors. In October 2016 she launched thehomepage.nz as a philanthropic and independent initiative with the sole purpose of solving Auckland’s housing crisis.


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