MIKE ROKE: Don't dream, it's over

26/05/2017

National is right. There is no housing crisis, it is now a housing epidemic. The dream of a young family getting on the property ladder with a little three bedroom fixer-upper on a quarter acre is gone. The barn door was left open, the horse has bolted, it is cantering off to the horizon and it is not coming back.

So what are the powers that be going to do about this problem? The short answer is not much. The budget announced this week shows National is not really interested in fixing the housing mess they have almost single handedly got us into, or, as I suspect, they have realised the problem cannot be solved. Not easily anyway.

They did announce before the budget a plan to build 34,000 new homes in Auckland over the next 10 years they are calling the Crown Building Project.

It is their version of Labour’s Kiwi Build idea which will build 100,000 affordable homes across New Zealand over 10 years, half of which will be in Auckland. I can tell you now that neither plan will work.

Putting up new homes on the outskirts of Auckland is only going to add more traffic to a roading network that is already bursting at the seams. Add to that no decent public transport system and you have a recipe for eternal gridlock. People will still be living in cars, just on the motorway instead of a church carpark.

What really needs to change is our mindset. Time to get out of the thinking that you need to have a house on a block of land to raise a family. You may get there one day but you will not start there anymore.

We have been lucky here for generations in our little corner of the South Pacific. We have reasonable sized land mass with a small population. We all grew up climbing trees, playing cricket in the backyard and running around playing tiggy because we had the space. That is still the case in areas outside of Auckland, but for our biggest city these days are behind us. Or at least will be very soon.

Reality check. Auckland is a major metropolitan area on a world scale now. More than 1.5 million call it home.  More people live in Auckland than in San Diego, than Brussels, than Helsinki, even Munich. If Auckland was a city in the USA it would be the sixth largest by population. Wow.

For far too long Auckland has been growing out - but really, it needs to grow up.

What is one thing all major cities in the world have in common? Skyscrapers and apartment buildings.

Lets not waste our time building affordable houses out in the suburbs, lets build apartment towers in the city. Let's make Auckland look like a power house, world class, proper city. Not like a Duplo city with a knitting needle in the middle as it currently does.

More people living and working in the city also means there is less need for them to have a car. More cars off the road? There’s another tick.

Instead of the dream of a little house on a block of land in the suburbs, new home buyers and migrants should be looking at a 33m² two bedroom on the 9th floor.

People in big cities all over the world live in apartments, why can't we do it here?

I think in general New Zealanders are a ‘steady as she goes’ race of people. We are not big fans of change. But change has been forced upon us. A change from the burbs to the ivory tower. Apartment living is not that bad. You get your own space, sound proofing is pretty good these days and the views will be awesome.

Whoever the next government is has a big job ahead of them. They will need to fit another 45,000 people in Auckland next year, and the next, and the next…. And in my opinion the way to do that is to look up.

Mike Roke is technical producer for RadioLIVE Drive with Alison Mau, weekdays from 3-6pm.