haven’t read the 1949 book “State Housing in New Zealand” but a friend sent me some notes about it a few days ago and I’m going to hunt it out through the local library.
It should be essential reading for all Labour Party MPs – and Housing Minister Megan Woods in particular.
Here are the notes I got with the recommendation to read:
It is a report, written by Cedric Firth of the Ministry of Works, in response to many requests that they received (mostly internationally) to describe the state house programme in New Zealand.
A few takeaways (from memory) – they start by building less than 100 houses in one year – and then carry on!
They had a shortage of materials, nationally and globally – hence why houses were built with a wide range of materials. This also meant that various industries were strengthened by the programme.
They ran a training programme – one for young people and one for returned soldiers.
They thought about community / civic design – e.g. building the Wadestown shops, the Naenae town centre. They worked with the Education board and local churches and allocated them land.
Some were apartments and some were standalone houses.
“They began building 100 houses per year” but this increased to 3,500 per year from the late 1930s. If we were building at the same rate today we would be building over 10,000 state homes per year. However the Labour government is funding just 1600 extra places per year for a state house waiting list of almost 25,000 families with desperate housing needs.
Unbelievably out of touch. Incompetence writ large.
The final words in the book talk about the importance of not just building houses but building communities around “civic centres”
It is felt that this Civic Centre will provide the means for a reasonable community life – that is, a Centre which will function and which will be an expression of civic order. As such, it forms an important part of the Housing Division’s programme to provide a good environment in which the citizen may enjoy a full and satisfying life. The whole programme is a contribution towards raising our standard of living. We have the means to do it. The means should be used for worthwhile ends.
Can the Labour government rediscover its past values? Can it be forced away from its obsession with pandering to middle-class landlords? We will know for sure when we see the budget.
In the meantime sign and share the petition at www.alternativeaotearoa.nz