Government needs to build the best houses it can

The Labour-led Government is to build 100,000 new homes over the next 10 years; a bold promise given the party is up for re-election in less than three years’ time.

In my book, that means 30,000 homes will need to have been built by the time of the next general election or the coalition of Labour, NZ First and the Greens will get hammered by the opposition for not delivering on a major election promise.

Setting off on a huge home-building programme is not only ambitious, it is a chance to do things differently, to be more efficient, and smarter.

Rather than install the minimum standard insulation, go for the best there is. Rather than using single glazing (which is allowed in warmer parts of the country), opt for double or triple-glazed windows.

Every roof should be covered in solar panels to generate electricity that can be shared across the neighbourhood.

Every home should have its own water tank to collect rainwater to reduce people’s reliance on central water reserves (climate change means we can no longer rely on a few reservoirs).

Any appliances fitted in these new homes should be the most efficient available, and electric car-charging units should be in every garage.

These new neighbourhoods should be designed with cycleways, there should be large open places where a ball can be kicked and sports facilities, such as swimming pools (it should be compulsory for children to learn how to swim). Having first-class public transport links goes without saying.

If the Government is smart, it will not build cheap, but invest in good-quality, sustainable homes that keep people’s heating bills and property maintenance to a minimum.

And this may mean looking offshore for building supplies because the cost of raw materials in New Zealand is beyond the pale.

While most of the wood we use in home building is grown here we pay export prices at the DIY stores and a lack of competition means there is no compelling reason for them to bring prices down ($3 for a metre of decking wood? You have to be joking).

First published by the New Zealand Herald