A MATE OF MINE sent me an e-mail. “I guess no one told Phil Twyford about Ali Baba.” I followed the link to an advertisement for kitset homes manufactured in China. You could have one of these: completely broken down and shipped to your nearest port in a container; for approximately $NZ15,000.
The quality of the home I cannot vouch for, but that really isn’t the point, is it? If this Government had possessed the courage to, just once, think outside the square, then by now the housing crisis would be over. By negotiating a deal with the Chinese, whereby cheap kitset homes were shipped to New Zealand at a fraction of the cost of building a similar house here, the social and economic problems attributable to the lack of low-cost housing could have been tackled head-on.
The potential problems associated with the quality of these kitset homes could easily have been addressed at a government-to-government level. Given the enormous pay-off for Beijing, the durability and weatherproofness of such dwellings could be guaranteed. With the state supplying the land and installing the necessary infrastructure, whole towns could have sprung up out of the ground with astonishing speed – as they once did in the days when New Zealand still possessed a Ministry of Works.
Just think of the economic and social impact of being able to supply a warm, dry, and healthy home for every family in need of one. The satisfaction of this need would, obviously, have reduced property speculation dramatically and kept private-sector rents low. In response, investment would have been re-directed away from real estate and into more productive areas of the economy.
Welcome as these effects might be, they would pale into insignificance when compared to the improvement universal housing would bring to New Zealand’s rapidly declining social indicators.
The educational performance of New Zealand’s poorest children would improve rapidly once their parents were safely and securely housed. Nothing retards a child’s educational attainment like being forced to move frequently from house to house and school to school. The elimination of serious overcrowding would also eliminate a broad range of the physical and mental health problems generated by too many people living in too little space. Domestic violence, too, would reduce dramatically.
Solving the housing crisis would reveal to every New Zealander just how many of the country’s other problems are the direct result of widespread homelessness and unrelenting housing insecurity.
The problem, of course, is that even if this government’s first housing minister, Phil Twyford, had been made aware of the capacity of the Chinese construction industry to meet the demand for cheap public housing, he would have been confronted immediately with a whole host of obstacles.
Obviously, New Zealand’s domestic construction industry would have screamed blue-bloody-murder at the price-depressing effects of such formidable foreign competition. The seriously disrupted relationship between local government, land-bankers and builders would, similarly, have provoked loud protests. The most ear-splitting shrieks, however, would have come from landlords. Overnight, their business model would have collapsed – along with their ability to ruthlessly immiserate their tenants by constantly ratcheting-up rents.
Owning multiple properties would no longer make commercial sense. Thousands of former rental properties would thus be put up for sale in what would very soon become a buyers’ market. What had been a crippling shortage of affordable housing would suddenly become a glut. Prices would tumble, and the dream of home-ownership for middle-class thirty-somethings would be realised.
As this cascade of consequences descended upon the New Zealand economy, homeowners would watch with mounting horror as the putative value of their houses declined precipitously. The powerful sense of well-being engendered by the seemingly unstoppable rise of house prices, sweetened by the prospect of pocketing hundreds-of-thousands of dollars in tax-free capital gains when they eventually sold-up and moved to the provinces, would evaporate in a red mist of anger and resentment.
Exposed, in all its ugly reality, would be the naked class interests bound up in the maintenance of the housing crisis. By freeing the working-poor and beneficiaries from the misery of housing insecurity and homelessness, the Deus ex machina of cheap Chinese kitset homes, purchased with cheap Chinese credit, would have produced a profound re-ordering of class relations. The 60 percent of New Zealanders who had been on the winning side of the housing crisis would not have been best pleased.
To strategic onlookers located in Washington, London and Canberra, such a sudden reversal of class fortunes, especially one made possible by the shrewd intervention of Beijing, would’ve been utterly unacceptable. As disturbing to our “allies” as it was to those on the deal’s domestic downside.
The very idea of the New Zealand working-class clasping with relief and gratitude the helping hand offered to them by a courageous Labour Government, and its Chinese Communist partners, would give New Zealand’s Five Eyes partners the screaming heebie-jeebies. In the time it takes to “make the economy scream”, Jacinda Ardern would’ve found herself walking the same path as Salvador Allende.
The problem is not that New Zealand’s housing crisis cannot be fixed, but that it is not in the unequivocal material interest of enough New Zealanders to allow it to be fixed – not even at Ali Baba’s knock-down price of $15,000 per unit.
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Thursday, 3 February 2022.
Commie Kitsets - what a great colloquialism. What a good idea, let's embrace it. NZ isn't presently building houses or units that have unique Kiwi style, and that design looks modern and attractive enough to be embraced as 'home' by ordinary practical people.
I see one Chinese looking person (so racist?) suggesting in stuff that we should abandon MIQ and open the borders.I have grave doubts about that done at a blow - we just need some careful, intelligent and humane sorting of who we let in, and prefer on a national and principled basis, not free-market-open-slather-dripping-money shoe-in the door stuff.
The kitsets would be great. If we can get supplies from China that are properly tested to scientific specifications that would be good. I'm thinking infrastructure here; food we should be doing for ourselves and keeping our trade going with other strongly agricultural reliant countries as we understand the need to keep supporting each other don't we! Don't we?
So the solution to NZs problems is cheap Chinese housing (quality of no concern)....a little ironic then that the worlds largest ever property bubble is in the process of popping in China.
Curious that their cheap kitsets didnt avoid such.
Even more stunning when we factor in that the Ali Baba kit sets are undoubtedly containing wood New Zealand exported to China as raw timber.
Come on Chris - you know better than that.
Firstly if someone did get a business going with the Chinese kitsets then by the time engineers and building standards appratchicks and electrical inspectors and plumbing inspectors got through with the building then it would cost more like $150k. Then a building consent will cost. Then you need a builder to erect the house. We are now getting close to $200k.
You can get a small house from a NZ house building company for under $200k.
ITS THE PRICE OF LAND THATS THE PROBLEM CHRIS - NOT THE BUILDING COST.
And also keep in mind that the last thing the Government wants is a house price drop - that would be political and economic suicide.
I guess dreams are free. Jacinda has been very clear that the best we can hope for is for from her is price growth to be slow.
Dropping? She has zero interest in such a thing. Considering where her power base is, how could anyone be surprised. She is about retaining power first and foremost.
I vote for Andrew Little, the union man, to replace Jacinda at the next election. He would be pleased to follow a historical conservative Labour line, and utilise these Chinese houses from a post-Communist country. Get the perks while available,while the houses and the will are available in China, and do it. The USA can listen in using Palantir and the Austrylians can put their ostrich heads in the ground. The Uk wouldn't know their A from their E. I'm all for going back to primitive signals intelligence, installing 'clack' towers along the spine of NZ as in Terry Pratchett books. For intelligence RT are pretty with it.
We can afford to lose Andrew Little but let's keep Jacinda in the background in storage, an energy battery that seems self-charging.
Sir Bob said something similar quiet some time ago but bring Chinese construction teams here to do the work.As an evil boomer I and friends I have discussed the matter and could not care if our house prices dropped by a third. So long as all did it makes no difference. Once retired the capital is dead money sitting in your house it cannot be used unless you move to a cheaper house or somewhere more rural however many of these places have also appreciated greatly. The key is freeing up land. Where I live there is plenty of land, if the town boundaries were extended enough developers would be lucky to get $100k per section. Current prices $600k for 500 sq meters.
Nu Labour has, finally, learnt about the force it has in its hand, and a redundancy scheme? Scared seems to have been tattooed into their spinal cord. Grant and Jacinda are 'meritocrats' first in their minds and representatives of the people very second. Do they know how much the real social democrats dismiss them. Too rhetorical to gain a question mark.
I must be the only one who is horrified at our housing situation.
I say that because you seem to have a section of the population who think everything is going dandy (it just needs more here, more there), or (on the left) they see it as distribution.
I see it (As do Michael Reddell and Geof Simmonds) through a paradigm of people to resources although Michael Reddell also sees urban limits.
See David Seymours appeal to nationhood here. Is very much akin to Jacinda Arderns UN speech (and the Lennon song Imagine ).
It's a load of BS (He says no one in NZ is special), where formerly we were (Maori and Pakeha).In creating a "truly multiracial society", no one is indeed special by birthrite, except those who have what it takes to rise to the top (e.g. the Twitterati who are always tweeting pictures of the bellbirds in their garden, their views etc). These people mark themselves by who they are not, and they are definitely the losers who started of at the same school or high school who got weeded out.
It's the cost of the land Chris. Even a $15,000 kitset needs some ground to sit on. So long as we constrain the availability of land by regulation in pursuit of "compact cities" and the false god of "Net Zero", working New Zealanders will continue to miss out on home ownership. They are being sacrificed for middle class virtue-signaling, it's that brutal.
That wee house has enough style to be attractive en masse but I would like small suburbs where there could be brightly painted, if chosen, tiny houses and caravans stationary with flower beds or tubs of veges all around and little fences around them to keep in kids and mark off the personal space of the occupants. I find USA style 'tract houses with beige walls and black roofs depressing but better I hope than living in a car, under a bridge, stuffed 12 to a room early-Depressiion style (but depends on whether you have reasonably civilised people living next to you).
First This below is for thinking people. Don't read if your mind isn't plastic! This newspaper obituary would seem at first glance to have nothing to do with housing.' But I pass it on as a wonderfully flexible and brilliantly imaginative way of providing help where needed, funded by the public, doing what governments and po-faced social systems managers and religious organisations wouldn't do; like helping the vast majority or even just large numbers of people in need to have suitable housing in NZ.
Businessman used profits from pleasures of the rich to supply condoms to the poor
Some points from this story:
1 Some experience of others' life when poor by mixing with needy people in aid work. (We don't all do that and should.)
Between 1960 and 1962, he [Phil Harvey] served in the [USA] army and was based at Ft. Meade, Maryland. He then joined the international charity CARE in 1963 to work in India. His five years' work with CARE on large-scale feeding programs for rapidly growing numbers of Indian children convinced Harvey of the importance of family planning
2 When providing aid Harvey believed customers were more likely to [utilise the benefits] use condoms if they had to pay for them. I think this is important, when people commit themselves with some exchange, some sacrifice of money or effort, then they appreciate what they are receiving and are more likely to use it properly and appreciate its worth to them.
3 Harvey and his partners provided vital help to people with no resources to help themselves, and they knew it wasn't helping the feckless - they targeted and monitored their aid from go to whoa. While working on a food distribution project... in India in the Punjab, a woman in a ragged sari left her kids in the line, knelt down at his feet and touched her forehead on his shoes. From that moment he decided he wanted to promote birth control in the developing world.
Further - Also wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phil_Harvey
(This book amongst others referred to on Wikipedia sounds interesting and helpful.
The Human Cost of Welfare: How the System Hurts the People It's Supposed to Help (2016) with Lisa Conyers - Drawing on research including interviews with men and women on welfare, this book shows how welfare programs keep people from working with crippling consequences not only for them but for our whole country.)
People of goodwill and principle respond with assistance and practical help to need. Do we?
In Harvey's case he and his partners had to fight the USA States and government in their Supreme Court spending millions of dollars protecting his fund-raising source of adult sex toys and entertainment with a 'free speech' campaign. However they did have to self censor some of their material as breaking bounds of reasonable controls and established monitoring by sex therapists.
Harvey and his partners fought the USA law and won. Note that sexual antipathy touting purity and citing immorality never sleeps, those who have it in their genes in the USA have been successful in making life hard for women trying to control their fertility.
However, it is one example of unique social principles at work for the benefit of those without funds and standing in the community, by profiting from people well-provisioned, in a neat fit of a 'tidal' effect flowing from the top to the bottom. How could we use this pragmatic system with a principle in the housing market. New buildings might carry a social housing tax for instance which would be paid to Community Housing Trusts that would be governed by people in need, working with building experts to modern town planning standards who would know best principles and cite them, all together choosing which approach was best and most cost efficient and long-lasting?
To be effective as well as 'good', social entrepreneurs might have to force the government's hand but also monitor themselves and establish reasonable protocols so not be for open slather. So in housing there need to be protocols that enable residents to live comfortably with consideration for their needs and wishes.
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