COMMENT:

Poor Phil Twyford. Having just handed the shiny new keys for the first of 100,000 "affordable homes" to the lucky new owners, the Housing Minister is now being roundly mocked from both the right and left, for selling it to a young couple who were too "middle class". Whatever that might mean.

For surely the standout feature of the Auckland housing crisis is that it is, in effect, classless. It's got to the stage when only the rich - or their children - can afford to buy into the game and service the mortgage.

How quickly the housing shortage became no respecter of class is highlighted by the rapidly escalating definition of affordable.

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In late 2012, Labour leader David Shearer promised that once in office, Labour would build 100,000 entry-level, affordable homes in New Zealand over 10 years for $300,000 or less each.

In January 2013, industry sources confirmed to me that even in Auckland, building a two-bedroom, 90sq m, two-storey terrace house with all the relevant infrastructure was possible at that price.

Just five years on, the Papakura "affordables" that Twyford and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern recently launched, cost around twice that, the three-bedroom model costing $579,000, the four-bedroom option, $649,000.

Still, with Auckland's current housing shortage at between 28,000-45,000 and growing, thanks to population growth at around 14,000 a year, surely the 72 new houses in this new development is something to celebrate.

Particularly when they're the first signs of a Government, in its first year of office, following through with a commitment to complete 100,000 new houses in 10 years.

Of course Twyford will have become used to friendly fire by now. Earlier this year, one of the authors of a stocktake into the state of housing he commissioned on taking office, gave the minister a good kicking at the public unveiling of the document.

Economist Shamubeel Eaqub told Twyford if he was serious about solving the housing crisis he should be building 500,000 affordable houses over 10 years not just 100,000.

Now, another of the authors, Alan Johnson of the Salvation Army, is criticising Government plans to erect KiwiBuild "affordable" houses in Northcote, Mt Roskill and Māngere, on the sites of existing blocks of state housing.

The plan is to replace the clapped-out state houses with new ones, add a few more and share the space with individually-owned homes, affordables included, pushed together as part of the drive for more intensive housing in Auckland.

Johnson says "it is probably time to call the Government's flagship KiwiBuild programme for what it is - a state-sponsored gentrification of state housing suburbs ... little different from the previous Government's efforts, in places such as Tamaki to extract value from the public housing estate under the guise of modernisation".

This seems an unnecessarily gloomy conclusion to make.

Gentrification means the "middle class" moving into a working class area and driving the existing incumbents out.

However, the KiwiBuild proposals for Auckland involves demolishing 6050 state rentals and replacing them with about 6500 new state or social housing units.

Such "pepper-potting", as a policy, seems to fall in and out of vogue. I recall when I was growing up in an old state housing area in what the real estate agents optimistically called "Epsom South", the state tenants and those who had bought the freehold, seemed to get on with each other just fine.

After nine years of the Key-English Government which denied there was any housing crisis to solve, the pressure on their successors for immediate action from both the interest groups seeking help for those at the bottom of the heap, to say nothing of the commentariat, is understandable. I confess to having fired the odd hurry-up salvo myself. But the reality is, the housing crisis is a many-headed beast.

After a decade of neglect, there are problems in all directions. More social housing is needed, as is more "affordable" housing at a price teachers, nurses and even young doctors can afford to buy.

There are apprentice builders and electricians to train and new infrastructure to build.

To predict the end of the world because of a photo-opportunity promoting the first "affordable house" seems a little excessive.