There's a six-storey block of 46 apartments going up in Panmure right now where the developer is giving each owner an electric scooter. But no car park. There will be some e-cars available for hire by the residents, and a communal bike lock-up. Welcome to the future, right there in the suburbs.
The building looks across to the majestic Mt Wellington and is a 4-minute walk – let's say 1-minute scooter ride – along Jellicoe Rd from the Panmure interchange. The eastern line connects Panmure to the city centre and Manukau; there are bus services and, quite soon, there'll be a rapid transit service connecting Panmure to Pakuranga and Botany on the new Eastern Busway. Construction has begun.
It's also a short hop to the new cycleway connecting Glen Innes to Tamaki Drive and the city centre.
Apartments in the block are selling well, mostly to locals. That's a big vote of confidence, from people who live in Panmure and already know they can live well there without owning a car.
That's a concept too often attached only to inner-city living, as if it can't work in the suburbs. But it can.
With good public transport, alternative modes such as bikes and scooters, and access to a car when they need it, those apartment owners will be living in the future.
And not only because of the transport. The developer, a company owned by Legacy Property called Rethinking.space, is aiming for a Homestar 7 rating. There's very high heating efficiency with double the insulation required by the Building Code. Tapware, toilets, showers, lighting and kitchen and laundry appliances all play their role in controlling water and electricity consumption.
Construction is solid reinforced concrete. "No risk of a leaky building," said Gary Gordon, when I went out for a look. Gordon, the Legacy boss, is one of those guys with enthusiasm fizzing in his veins. Shirt, jeans and haircut, a sharp casual dresser. "It's as waterproof as a swimming pool," he said.
These apartments will be warmer, drier, healthier and cheaper to live in than most others in the city.
They'll also be quieter, because the polystyrene block wall linings, good for heat retention and fire resistance, are also good for sound insulation from one unit to the next. While I was there, a builder's radio blaring in one unit couldn't be heard in the next, even though the ceilings and external walls were only framed up.
Legacy/Rethinking.space is a medium-size developer and for this block they're also the builder. They have experience with Homestar 6 buildings, but not previously at the next step up. The idea is to develop a new construction system and roll it out at greater scale.
Rethinking.space general manager Mike Beazley, more of a relaxed, rumpled-suit kind of guy than Gordon, but clearly just as proud of what they're doing, mentioned some other eco-credentials. They recycle building waste and look for suppliers with "credibility for their approach to sustainability and ethical supply chains".
Building to Homestar 7 has not pushed these apartments out of the affordability bracket. One unit sold at $399,000. The rest range from $435,000 to $600,000, depending on their size and level.
Just the absence of car parks, Beazley said, has knocked about $50,000 off the asking price of each apartment.
Has construction been faster? "Not yet," said Gordon. "But it will be. This is our prototype. We've learned things, what to do and what not to do."
Within 10 years or so, they expect their building will be one of a row on Jellicoe Rd, built by several developers. It's perfect for its THAB (terraced-housing and apartment buildings) zone. There's even a large area of rubbishy land on the other side of the road, next to the railway lines, that has terrific potential to become a communal park.
Except it is not zoned to become a park and there are no plans for it to happen. But it should happen, with safe road crossings. Apartment blocks needs kids' play areas and other communal open space.
Will it happen? That's probably up to Auckland Council's "place-making" agency Panuku, Auckland Transport and KiwiRail, perhaps with a beneficent steer from the Government's new Housing and Urban Development Agency (Huda).
It's not impossible for agencies to work together. Panmure should be hopeful.
There's something else about this project: over half the apartments are KiwiBuild.
Gordon said having KiwiBuild back them meant they didn't have to pre-sell half the apartments before they could start construction. It gave them the confidence to proceed.
"In the end the risk is still on us to sell," he said. That's sort of true. If they can't sell, they can discount the units with the Government making up the difference, or sell them to the Government.
The Jellicoe Rd project is how KiwiBuild should work. Building good, affordable, energy efficient homes integrated with larger transport and community-building goals. Enabling developers to scale up operations. Allowing people to realise their homeowning dreams without having to leave the part of town they like calling home.
And as this project shows, it is working like that. Just not at the "pace and scale" expected, to borrow the phrase that used to trip so lightly from Housing Minister Phil Twyford's tongue.
But pace and scale were only two of the three legs of the tripod: the third was quality. Warm, dry and safe; environmental quality; community-building quality. While many critics have obsessed over the number of homes, often egged on by Mr Pace and Scale himself, getting those homes right was the more important first step.
KiwiBuild can scale up from projects like Jellicoe Rd, with far better long-term outcomes than if they'd just whacked up rows of cabins on every piece of vacant land they could find.
There are some other encouraging signs. The new "head of commercial" at KiwiBuild is Helen O'Sullivan, formerly executive director at Ockham Residential. She's long been a public advocate for quality, environmentally sound, affordable homes and she's exactly what KiwiBuild needs: a respected private sector manager who knows how to make dreams come true.
And KiwiBuild itself is being folded into that new agency, Huda. While National's Judith Collins whips everyone into a righteous fury about KiwiBuild's "failure", Twyford has been reforming the back end of the sector.
Huda still needs enabling legislation, expected to be introduced and passed this year. But the idea is to create a powerful agency to push through administrative and industry barriers. To deal with the problems of high and entrenched construction costs, near-phobic suspicion of new technologies and a failure to treat housing as part of the larger process of building communities. To get that pace and scale working.
It's too early to know what will happen. But the goal is the right one, and the determination to cut through the mess is right too.
None of this is to say Collins has been wrong to identify failings in KiwiBuild. It hasn't worked the way we were told it would.
But it's wrong to say it doesn't work at all. After years of neglect and appalling misdirection, housing is such a complex problem that it was naïve of everyone – including Twyford – to think it could quickly be fixed.
But it's also naïve to assume nothing good is being done. Rethinking.space isn't alone. O'Sullivan isn't alone. She says they're "keen to work with developers on more homes like these", and it's her job to make it happen. There is progress.