In 1919, Hawke's Bay was in the midst of a housing crisis. Exactly 100 years later, there are eerie similarities in the region.

After World War I, materials were expensive and hard to secure, which made building a home for a family extremely difficult.

The housing crisis was New Zealand-wide - but Hastings and Napier were particularly badly affected.

The Housing Act of 1919 gave money to local authorities which they could borrow to erect workers' dwellings to sell, but this was only confined to larger cities, such as Auckland and Wellington.


Thankfully in the 1920s, a building boom occurred to solve the problem when the government would lend to workers up to 95 per cent of the value of a house.

This then came to a sudden halt during the Great Depression.

An article written for the Hastings Standard newspaper in 1920 spoke of the Napier Borough Council raising £100,000 for "the purpose of acquiring land and building dwellings".

An article written in the Maoriland Worker in 1919 also identified strong community work within Hawke's Bay to address the problem.

It talks of creating a "Municipal Housing Scheme" which was "badly needed".

Moving forward 100 years - the question is, has it actually improved?

Yes and no, according to Hawke's Bay builder Richard Kepka.

Kepka says that New Zealand's geographic isolation has, and always will, pose a slight problem in terms of accessing materials.


"There's a lot of money in Hawke's Bay and people wanting things like Italian tiles for example and those tiles can't come by truck - they come by boat and it takes a long time to get here.

"Another example would be cedar wood, which comes from the USA or Canada and again it takes a long time to get here because it comes via boat.

"We live at the bottom of the South Pacific so we're not easily accessible here."

Kepka said although there was a shortage in certain materials - thanks to social media and the rise in technology, builders were able to acquire materials as long as they were organised.

Kepka said the big problem causing the housing crisis was a huge labour shortage in Hawke's Bay.

He said builders were run off their feet due to such high demand in the region.

"It's a highly under-resourced industry at the moment in Hawke's Bay, I see a lot of builders being run into the ground, people are very demanding - I'd say that's the biggest problem rather than the materials."

It's not just builders - it's plumbers, electricians, block layers and roofers, he said.

Harcourts General Manager James Cooper said the shortage of houses being built meant there was a shortage in the number for sale too.

"Hawke's Bay is still very much a sellers' market and this is reflected in the strong buyer demand our team is experiencing at the frontline.

"Although the latest statistics indicate a slight increase in the number of residential dwellings for sale, Hawke's Bay still has just nine weeks of inventory, compared to the long term average of 30.

"As such, there is still a shortage of housing to meet buyer demand."