Auckland is undergoing one of its largest changes since the end of World War II with entire neighbourhoods demolished and 25,000 new homes built. But while everyone knows we need more housing, not everyone agrees with the developments next door.
Chances are if you live in Auckland, you've seen them - the new state houses. Maybe you've heard it, the noise of bulldozers and builders. Maybe you've also read the stories, watched the debates on your local community Facebook page, or listened to the comments on the news.
"It's not that we object to state housing in general… we just don't want them here."
"They'll change the character of the neighbourhood."
"It's the high concentration of tenants we're worried about, right next to a school."
In certain places, you might have even looked on as your neighbours sold up and moved out. They probably said something like: "We're worried about our property price." But they might have said something more. "We don't want toys stolen from our lawn," one seller-upper told a friend, after a three-storey public housing block had been announced for next door.
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All across the City of Sails, single-section state houses are being torn down, to be replaced with multi-storey homes or apartment blocks. There are 120 small and medium sites so far, and five large-scale regenerations - where entire neighbourhoods including infrastructure and green spaces are being rebuilt in suburbs close to the central city.
In total over 10 years, about 5000 state houses will be replaced by 25,000 homes. Of those, 11,000 will be public housing (either owned by the state or by community providers) and 13,000 will be sold to private citizens - some through affordable ownership schemes like Kiwibuild and the rest on the open market.
Housing New Zealand ownership footprint in Mt Roskill
Draft plans for the Owairaka regeneration show development stages
It is one the biggest change since the end of World War II, says housing expert Philippa Howden-Chapman. Just like the huge state house building programmes of the 1930s and 1960s, it will be marked down in the history books.
"It's an extraordinary story," Howden-Chapman says, speaking in her role as director of the New Zealand Centre for Sustainable Cities. "It's very necessary. We've seen a huge spike in people wanting to get into state housing - including people in the workforce - nurses, teachers, firemen - all those people in service industries who can't afford rents."
"We know about the rise of people in emergency accommodation. We don't want children growing up in hotels or being homeless," she says. "And we can't have Auckland spreading further and further out, that's expensive, it takes up valuable land, and increases carbon emissions. We need housing in places where there are transport options. That's the bottom line."
This map shows every small or medium-scale development in Auckland
However, though everyone agrees on the desperate need for more housing, not everyone agrees with the Government's current plans.
Critics argue Kāinga Ora - formerly Housing New Zealand - hasn't paid enough attention to what communities want. They say "regeneration" is in fact state-sponsored gentrification, and will push low-income families out. Others say selling some sections to fund new houses on others is a huge mistake, because once Crown land is gone, it's very difficult to get back. And of course - there are the nimbys - who say it's fine, as long as it's not next door.
'Better quality homes for families'
The official name for the redevelopment is the Auckland Housing Programme. It was launched in July 2016, under the former National Government, and continued when the Coalition was formed a year later.
Its goal is to better utilise land and increase the supply of homes, re-investing $5.6 billion over the four years to 2022 to "provide better quality homes for people and their families".
An urban placemaking plan for development in Mt Roskill South
The development will be done in stages over 10 years
It is the most significant part of the Government's commitment to bring up the total public housing stock to 73,000 by 2022, alongside a ramped-up programme of leasing and buying, as well as some regional development.
The five large-scale projects are all in centrally-located Auckland suburbs - Māngere, Mt Roskill, Northcote, Ōranga and Tāmaki (the original regeneration project centred on Glen Innes, which partially serves as a template for the other four).
Māngere is the most ambitious, with 2700 state homes to be knocked down and replaced with 3000 public homes, and around 7000 affordable and market homes.
Kāinga Ora's footprint in Māngere is vast
Development has begun in Māngere West and will spread from there
What's driving the housing regeneration?
This month, the waiting list for public housing reached a record-high 14,000 households. It is but one measure of the country's ongoing housing crisis - a problem driven by escalating house prices, rents increasing faster than incomes, and a dire undersupply of affordable homes.
Auckland alone is an estimated 40,000 houses short. Families - including working households - have been priced out of rentals into overcrowding, garages, and sometimes on to the street. The Government is now placing the homeless in motels at a cost of $300 a night, or $100 million a year. That contributes to an annual housing bill of $3b.
There is also an escalating social cost. Recent Government briefings have warned of the flow-on effects expected if supply issues are not addressed. For example, one Ministry of Social Development memo said, crowding wrought disease, and affected school performance. It created financial stress, leaving low-income households without enough money for food, clothing or medical care. It affected productivity and labour mobility, they said.
Ōranga is Kāinga Ora's newest large-scale regeneration project
Historically, families short of a place to stay would have been housed by the state. However, New Zealand's state house stock relative to population is the lowest it has been since the 1940s. Where just 10 years ago, there was one state house for every 65 people, there's now one per 80. Data shows the impact of the sell-off under the previous National Government - down a net 1500 houses - is also contributing to the current demand.
Kāinga Ora wants to help address demand by "maximising" the potential of its land holdings through intensification. At the same time they will build new infrastructure, with a promised focus on "placemaking" - ensuring the redevelopments facilitate a sense of community.
Community building or crisis thinking?
While most housing advocates agree with regeneration in principle, there is much disquiet amid the community housing sector about the gap between rhetoric and reality. A large part of this revolves around community consultation, or the perceived lack of it undertaken by Kāinga Ora. They see it as a lack of planning, driven by "crisis thinking".
"Take Māngere for example," says the Salvation Army's director of social policy, Campbell Roberts. "Who said to the Māngere community - what do you want? They've just said, this is what we think the community should look like."
Roberts says doesn't make sense to build so few public houses in Māngere - Kāinga Ora is only adding a net 300 public homes to the 2700 being demolished - the other 7000 will be sold privately.
"The reality is the work we've done, no one who lives in Mangere can even afford KiwiBuild or private rentals. They're an area of high need that needs more state housing," he says.
"I think there's a serious question about how viable the plan is. Are they going to be able to sell the private homes?"
Roberts is also concerned about amenities, which he believes are not on a master plan.
"They're bringing another 30,000 people in there but no one has talked to the doctors about who's going to serve them. You're going to need more schools, more doctors, more shops and if you haven't done a master plan you're just relying on them appearing by market economics."
The Northcote development is one of the most advanced
Roberts said the Government was prepared to sacrifice such planning in order to simply get people into houses.
"It's crisis thinking. The main thing becomes building houses but that has other consequences, and I think it's important to outline those consequences."
'The logic of learning from your middle-class neighbours is flawed'
In the same way, some critics say the model of mixed tenure - where public, affordable and private housing is mixed together - will also undermine existing communities.
While the Government rationale for the model is based on the idea that too many state homes together concentrates poverty - thus creating ghettos - objectors say it's not true that mixing wealthy and middle-class people with the poor has any kind of social or economic benefit.
"They have this idea that if poor live next to poor people you have no social mobility. But if you bring in wealthier people ... it's not like they're giving you a job," says Auckland University PhD student Vanessa Cole, who studies mixed tenure. "The logic of learning from your middle-class neighbours is flawed."
Cole says gentrification also breaks up people's social networks as they are priced out of the area. It alienates those in poverty, as new amenities cater more for the middle class, and those who are left have less and less influence over community features like schools.
And despite rhetoric around "blind tenure" - the idea that the public and private houses look the same - there is an argument to be made around unequal treatment, i.e. that the market houses end up being those in prime spots, such as next to the water or on a hill.
Perhaps the most egregious example is the site of the former home of Niki Rauti, the Glen Innes resident who protested against the Tāmaki Redevelopment plans and eventually moved out after losing to the Government in court.
Her home is now the site of six four-bedroom executive homes, selling on the open market for up to $1.6m. At the time, Rauti faced criticism for wanting to stay, accused of being selfish by taking up more land than she needed.
"People were saying, you're taking up land a homeless family could use," Cole says. "And now they're these expensive homes, because they've got sea views. It makes me angry because they people fighting this were saying, it's gentrification and everyone dismissed it. But what happened to the idea when they first built state homes that everyone deserves a nice house or a view?"
From Cole's perspective, the Government is using social logic to explain an economic ideology. The larger driver for mixed tenure, she says, is money - because the regeneration projects are funded by selling two in three parcels of land to developers, and recycling that cash back into the public build.
Cole says it's a problem because you can't get that land back.
"These policies ultimately lead to a dismantling of the state housing stock and the privatising of prime real estate land on which it sits."
It is an issue that also concerns economist Shamubeel Eaqub. He has been trying to find out just how much land is being sold, and where, with no luck.
"It really worries me. It's a sell-off. I just think they're using the state housing estate in a really weird way," he says. "The argument is we don't have the money … but we have money for the accommodation supplement and motels. It doesn't add up."
In Eaqub's view, the Government needs to increase the state-house build by at least 50 per cent, and to think outside the box. He thinks instead of mixed tenure Kāinga Ora should be working on a build-to-rent policy.
"We know if the Government doesn't provide new rental stock there won't be any. There's been no new rental stock over the last 10 years," he said. Instead, however, Government was focused on KiwiBuild, and ownership, and first-home buyers - who weren't the ones in acute need. "But that would require funding and the Government don't want to invest. No one wants to make sacrifices for the future."
In part, he said, it was linked to the societal trend that saw people protesting against the new developments in their area - a hardening of attitudes against state housing and those who live in it - meaning it wasn't politically expedient to invest huge amounts in homes for "the poor".
There's just this "othering" in the way we talk about welfare," Eaqub said. "They're almost dehumanised in many ways."
Projects in Tamaki have been divided into different precincts
Housing historian Ben Schrader, author of We Call it Home: A History of State Housing in New Zealand, said it wasn't always that way. In fact, in the 1930s, a state house was something to aspire to.
Initially, it was hoped that eventually state housing - like in many European countries - would be a large chunk of the housing stock, helping to control rental prices and providing homes for life for those who couldn't afford or didn't want a mortgage.
"But now it's solely a residual provision for the very poor and disadvantaged," he said. "It's tied to rhetoric about poverty and that moral judgment - you haven't tried hard enough."
That stigma has been sorely evident as the housing programme ramps up. On Facebook, in news stories and in community meetings - there's always an inherent judgment of those who live in state housing. Though some of the objection has been about eyesores, or intensification, the overriding theme is prejudice.
For example, in a letter Act leader David Seymour wrote to his Epsom constituents last year, about a block of land in his electorate being turned into a five-storey, 25-unit block, he wrote he was "concerned" about people having mental health issues.
And at a community meeting - also in Pt Chevalier - people openly argued about the "risk" of state house tenants. "I have two small children who walk to school by themselves," one woman said. "I'm genuinely concerned about these high-risk people. Has anyone done a risk assessment?"
Kāinga Ora community liaison Connie Ake did her best to point out the hypocrisy, saying if they did a risk assessment it would have to be for the whole community. Why single out HNZ tenants?
"We know 25 per cent of the general population will have an issue with mental health in their lifetime. That's one in four people in this room."
"The truth is," said Ake, "will this make a difference to your community?" She didn't think so. "All sorts of people live in Pt Chev, including hundreds of social housing tenants who've been there a long time."
Kāinga Ora regularly hold such meetings, they say, and despite criticisms of tokenism, they genuinely listen to feedback and use it for future planning.
"Putting the community at the centre of suburban development in Auckland is essential to creating a sense of ownership and pride of place for residents," deputy chief executive Chris Aiken says.
"Every new development has an impact on the people who live there, and therefore it's critical to involve the community in the process."
Howden-Chapman says people needed to be more welcoming.
Arguments that the regenerations affect nearby house prices are - so far - not true, she says. People care more about what the properties look like, and much of public housing is managed better than private rentals, she says. And integration is good for society.
"Communities are able to absorb people of all different varieties," she says. "That's the beauty of New Zealand, we have all kinds of people, and we want children to go to school with a diverse range of other children because that's what builds understanding and tolerance."
From her perspective - from a lifetime of working on housing policy - it is a chance to create genuine change.
"I think the direction of saying, let's think about the city as a whole and the villages within it are really important," she says.
"If you want to do something that puts us in a good position for 50 years - then this is one of the main ways of doing it. For the country as a whole it's a very, very sound investment. It's safe as houses."
Auckland Housing Programme: By the numbers
The Auckland Housing Programme will build 11,000 state houses and 12,600 market or affordable houses over 10 years.
There are 120 small or medium scale developments and five large-scale developments, or "regenerations".
2700 old state homes replaced with around 3000 new state homes and around 7000 more affordable and market homes.
Māngere West to date:
65 under construction
15 complete (all state homes)
400 state homes replaced with 470 new state homes and 1030 more affordable and market homes.
Northcote to date:
153 houses demolished
42 state homes under construction
102 market/affordable homes under construction (including 72 KiwiBuild)
51 state homes complete
Roskill Development (including Roskill South and Ōwairaka):
10,000 new homes, comprising around 3000 state homes, 3500 more affordable homes, and 3500 homes for the general market.
Roskill South to date:
113 Homes Demolished
23 state homes complete
77 state homes under construction
Ōwairaka to date:
38 homes demolished
0 homes complete, 0 under construction
7 superlots about to start in the next few weeks (all state, 78 homes planned for these sites)
320 existing state homes replaced by around 360 new state homes. Approximately 600 new market and affordable homes will also be built.
Ōranga to date:
55 houses demolished
2 state houses complete
Civil works under way across two superlots of land planned for state housing
2800 state homes will be replaced with around 3500 state homes and around 7000 more affordable and market homes
Tāmaki to date:
293 houses demolished
200 state homes complete
399 market/affordable and shared ownership homes completed