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Fully-built houses costing less than $100,000 are about to hit New Zealand after the Government's call for urgent Christchurch housing relief.

A number of businesses that unsuccessfully tendered for Christchurch are promoting Chinese-made houses with frames made from the same structural steel used to make shipping containers, and rooms divided into modules.

Building industry bosses say people should not scoff at the idea.

Warwick Quinn of Registered Master Builders Federation supports the concept as long as the places meet this country's standards.

Roger Levie of the Home Owners & Buyers Association does not oppose Chinese houses being imported as long as quality is high enough but he sees the move as a missed opportunity for the building sector to respond to demand for more affordable houses.

Levie hopes we look to Europe where stylish modular housing is common.

Pamela Bell of Wellington-based PrefabNZ, with about 100 members, says Habode and Nelson-based EcoTech are two firms already bringing modular houses here from China.

She can see the trend growing and has stayed in one of the places which she said is extremely well insulated, warm and dry.

Describing the places as "re-purposed containers", she said a single fan heater warmed the steel homes which were ideal for camp grounds or remote beach spots where access was a problem.

The stylish, national award-winning Bachkit and iPAD by Auckland architect Andre Hodgskin was at the quality end of the scale of this type of housing, she said.

Mike TeReo of Botany's Connect Building Group and Anthony Deng Li of South Auckland's Plug In Construction hope to have display houses up soon and aim to sell thousands of Chinese-built container-style houses, potentially changing the landscape for entry-level buyers in a move that could redress the national housing affordability crisis.

As home ownership levels plummet, the two have spotted a gap for houses around the $100,000 mark. TeReo says he could supply 150 houses a week or 7800 a year, half of the country's annual house-build of 14,600.

That makes even quick group house builders look slow.

Jennian Homes, which won the Government's Christchurch contract, is now finishing its first 20 houses for Christchurch after seven-day weeks of building at Harewood.

TeReo's houses sell for $95,000 to $125,000 for three bedrooms and would arrive on our shores in six containers, almost completely built from a factory near Shanghai.

Inside its containers, the house would be trucked to sites where a concrete floorpad has already been laid. TeReo recognises customers may have an aversion to the container approach.

"But containers are just a basic building block. People don't like container homes because they think they're cheap and nasty. But If I say we provide steel frames, insulated wall panels and low-maintenance quality - that's just a container adapted into a house. I believe 25 to 30 per cent of Kiwis will live in places Pre-built houses about to pop up in NZ like this in the next 20 years," he said.

A three-week process to build the homes is planned. Roofing components might come from New Zealand and TeReo dismisses fears about construction sector jobs being lost to China, saying buyers will mainly come from the rental market and could not afford to build at present prices.

"We are about to start testing and certification in accordance to what is required by the Building Code and local councils. These units are earthquake-proof to a magnitude 8, structurally superior and surpass the insulation requirements of H1.

"All window and door joinery is double glazed and the houses are clad in uPVC. The houses which are made up of modules will be assembled in a factory and shipped out to site to be joined. The cladding and the mono-pitch roof structure will be retrofitted and are secondary weathertightness barriers: double the assurance against water ingress at half the price," said TeReo, formerly of Signature Homes at Albany where he specialised in procurement and purchasing.

Extra money will buy paint and wallpaper, bathroom fittings, appliances, air conditioning, home theatre, lighting, security systems and interior design.

Plug In Construction also needs certification and appraisal of its Chinese-made Canadian-designed places, also made of shipping container structural steel. Its low-cost relocatable or disposable houses are being offered to a depressed residential market and one state housing boss is looking at the options.

Peter Hannam, principal adviser, products and procurement at Housing New Zealand, asked about Plug In Construction's proposals. Hannam was one of many interested in what they are offering from Chinese factories.

"They may or may not be suitable for state housing, but [we are] always looking at what the future of housing is, and what new concepts are available - value for money is something we are always interested in," Hannam said.

Deng Li said container-shipped built-up houses could revolutionise the building sector. He is offering an annual lease deal for $37,000 for a two-bedroom place, sold after three to five years for a further $30,000.

New Zealander Rod Gibson, managing director of Habode houses, is now based in China and said he had been on a crusade to develop manufactured prefab housing in China for 11 years and also tendered for post-quake Christchurch relief.

"It has been very challenging on a number of fronts. Production in China was not as simple as one first thought but after seven years we believe that we have broken the back of the issues. Few companies have yet to perfect this process. Many do prefab but the time to erect on site is still in the weeks," he said, citing his 14-day turnaround.

"Our approach has been to fully complete a building in the factory and then find a smart way to ship it with as little as possible disassembly. To date we have had over 300 of our two building designs built and shipped to New Zealand, Australia and West Africa.

"Our two products are Habode for the consumer market and the ihouz for the mining industry. If the ultimate accolade in developing a brand and product is to be copied, the Habode has been copied and reproduced by up to two other companies in China," Gibson said.

Fifteen Habode houses are already up in the South Island, he said, and 300 have been sold in Australasia and West Africa.

Other New Zealand housing builders and designers are already on the cheap bandwagon.

Mercer igloo house-maker BreezePod reckons it has the best solution, offering small circular houses for just $57,000.

"We are the revolution for affordable housing," claimed Derek Jackson at BreezePod.

The houses are designed to protect the occupants from a 9.6 magnitude earthquake.

"At the same time our homes are cyclone and hurricane safe having been tested up to 290km/h winds."