Monday, February 20, 2012

Fix the Building Act.

After Bernard Hickeys lamentation, Govt eyes blind to housing crisis, Not PC published a brilliant blog Unaffordable housing? No wonder!

"IN A NUTSHELL, THE big problem is that government has gone beyond right: it has passed laws giving the Reserve Bank the power to print money, bureaucrats the power to prescribe the methods and materials by which houses are built, and  planners the power to control and restrict people’s land."

"Meanwhile, the Department of Building and Housing were given the power to tell builders how to build houses. Rather than deregulation, which never happened here, builders have endured a flood of new regulation: producing pages and pages of gold-plated building regulations and a rise in the cost to build a house that has out-paced even the rate of house price rises"

Everyone has their own horror story of mindless regulation or engineering opinions needed to get compliance for a standard 3 bedroom kiwi house.  Pity the building inspectors, who driven by desire to eliminate liability for their Council, have to meticulously enforce every detail.  In our district even an 80 year-old hut in the bush cannot be altered unless it conforms with the Act.

Is there is the way out of this mess?    Here's my suggestion:  

Preserve the Building Act but widen the range of quality standards.   What I mean is broaden the Act from a singe "gold-plated" standard by creating 4 classes of dwellings as follows:

1.  Class A - fully compliant with the Building Act and guaranteed by Council.  

2.  Class B - more than 80% compliant. Any new work must meet Building Act standards.  Non compliance issues clearly identified on the LIM.  

3.  Class C - less than 80% compliant.  Includes most pre-1990 housing. Must have sewage, electrical and fire safety compliance.  Owner can make alterations themselves so long as they comply with Council planning standards, height, shade size etc.  Bought/sold on caveat emptor basis.

4.  Class D - Non compliant. Includes the typical kiwi bach, huts, temporary accommodation, etc. Can be built by anyone but must have basic sewage, electrical and fire safety.  Bought/sold on caveat emptor basis.

To solve NZ housing needs we must provide more flexibility for people to meet their housing needs according to what they can afford.

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