March 30, 2008

Quarter-acre dream history, says institute
By BEN FAWKES - The Dominion Post | Friday, 28 March 2008

The quarter-acre dream for first-home buyers should be relegated to the history books, according to the Real Estate Institute.

Instead, wannabe home owners should be steered toward apartment living to get a foothold on the property ladder.

Institute president Murray Cleland told a housing policy forum in Wellington yesterday that policies aimed at putting people onto the quintessential quarter-acre section were anachronisms.

"We need to gently dispel the myth every New Zealander deserves the quarter-acre dream.

"It's somewhat misty-eyed and trying to deliver a modern-day version of the 1930s state housing nirvana."

Mr Cleland said the growing shortage of affordable housing meant there was a need to look beyond expanding cities outward.

New Zealand's land use had traditionally been lazy, he said, and prime agricultural land had been squandered in a haste to develop.

"Drive through the Auckland airport area; the developments there are sitting on the most fertile land in New Zealand."

Mr Cleland said that higher-density housing was crucial in order to maximise limited land availability and to keep costs down for buyers.

He acknowledged the concerns over "shoe box" apartments, which he said were an aberration, but conceded they had not helped the argument in favour of inner-city apartment living.

Wellington City Council director of urban development and transport Ernst Zollner said concerns over smaller apartments were driven by middle class attitudes toward housing.

"It's a well-meaning middle-income benevolent attitude ... Part of it is because we have always had quarter-acre [sections].

"Some people are happy to have Scopa cafe as their living room. They don't want to be able to have friends around, they use cafes and pubs instead."

If the council were to clamp down too heavily on the size of apartments, it would price many people out of the inner-city market, he said.

The main challenge to encouraging apartment living was they were seen as an unattractive option for families.

"Most New Zealanders are completely shocked at bringing children up without a backyard."

Mr Zollner said infill housing was the best solution to affordable housing concerns, as it made the best use of existing infrastructure, alleviating pressure on local and central governments.

New developments required amenities such as roads, sewerage, water supplies and schools, which ultimately would have to be paid for by ratepayers, he said.

PS all: I first wrote about this topic in 2002 for a paper as part of my honours thesis in history. For this I used the Real Estate Institutes back issues of its own magazine which is has a great collection of historic holdings in their freezer archive space at their Auckland Offices. I titled my thesis, Houses and the Real Estate Industry post 1950: Selling the 'New Zealand Dream'. The Institute retained a copy along side other publications gifted them made over the years. I also gave a copy to the Hastings Library. So I do like to keep an eye out for topical articles of this type to archive. I wrote about the topic at a time I was personally struggling to save the deposit for a house. It allowed me to read alot of relevant literature about housed in New Zealand within the time frame of 1950-2000. Great and interesting topic..Subsequent to this I worked as a valuers assistant in a very busy small office and was able to go into the finer details of describing many houses in detailed valuation reports. I wonder did Institute president Murray Cleland read my earlier student work?

For more to read on this topic please visit my back link blog ==>

With regards,


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