It's worth approaching the tricky problem of Auckland's lack of affordable housing by asking the question: What would Lee Kuan Yew do?
Lee, considered the founder of modern Singapore, achieved a remarkable thing in a few short decades. He built a vibrant, functional and very rich city out of a bunch of war-damaged colonial buildings and a fetid swamp.
One of his first and major achievements was an extensive programme of public housing construction. Year after year, Singapore's government and its version of our New Zealand Superannuation Fund invested in building apartment blocks.
These originally basic apartments lifted Singapore's young citizens out of unhygienic shanty towns and allowed them the financial room and security to educate themselves and their families. Singapore's unified Government, under the direction of one man, co-ordinated the construction of housing in tandem with well-planned transport, schools, shops and playgrounds. It used economies of scale to keep costs down.
These apartments are the defining feature of the city state.
Confident of affordable, safe and well-maintained public housing, families were able to save chunks of their wages and reinvest it in their futures. More than 80 per cent of Singaporeans still live in them and many have now bought them as their family homes.
In 1966, Lee was in charge of a city of more than half a million people and presided over a construction programme to build more than 50,000 units in five years.
Some 80% of people in Singapore live in apartment blocks. Photo / Thinkstock
What's desperately needed in Auckland is 50,000 new homes in five years.
Prime Minister John Key doesn't have the same authority as Lee did to govern local town planning or force through developments. But he has a fresh electoral mandate and control of major transport funding, schools and the health system that most modern prime ministers don't have.
So why doesn't Key use the Government's strong balance sheet with an investment-led approach to fix the major lack of affordable housing in Auckland?
His Government has spent billions on Auckland's motorways without batting an eyelid.
This week's announcements of 300 rent subsidies for community groups initially and plans to sell as many as 2,000 state homes in the next year in the hope they might spark new building is painfully timid.
In all the Government's targets and numbers, not one said how many new houses would be built.
This plan might deliver 5,000 new houses in five years if everything works, but not the 50,000 needed. Even Key acknowledged the Tamaki development, meant to be Auckland's showcase development for new affordable homes, is moving too slowly and is dogged by a disjointed approach.
Key could take a leaf out of Lee's book and launch a Houses of National Significance (HONS) programme to match its Roads of National Significance programme (RONS) - and try to emulate Lee's success.