I recently consulted with a couple looking to future-proof their home for retirement. They want it to be comfortable and healthy with low running costs. They have the funds now to invest in efficiency for the long run. I've had similar clients hundreds of times.

It was a challenging house to assess, with a legacy of renovations and add-ons, as well as some dodgy building work. We barely covered everything in a two-hour assessment and I still had a report to write.

Although Whanganui has what might be the highest asthma rate in the developed world and there exists a clear link between housing and respiratory illness, there's no will to address the poor housing stock, sick children and ailing pensioners.

Council chooses to be hands-off and the best we get from our health system is an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. Cold, damp homes that are expensive to heat make their occupants ill and contribute to excess winter mortality are considered non-issues by most local elected officials.

Which brings me to my point: There is no "housing crisis" in this country. The housing situation is exactly as it is meant to be. Collectively, the nation has allowed it to get to this point, and so we must accept the legacy of bad design, high costs, weak government policy, incompetence, shortsightedness, exaggerated claims, over-priced products and materials, high-pressure sales techniques, dishonest slumlords, clueless valuers, poor workmanship, mismanagement, idiotic zoning laws, and probably a bit of corruption.

Housing in New Zealand is an own goal. Self-inflicted wounds have cost $100 billion while packing landfills with valuable building materials and hospitals with sick kids.
Recent examples include:


■Required repairs to already repaired Christchurch homes could cost an additional billion dollars.

■Tens of millions of dollars spent gutting homes tainted with tiny traces of meth are now seen as wasted funds as revised safe meth levels are released.

■Stick-on window films are found not to stand up to their thermal claims.

■For the first time the majority — over half — of NZ households will not heat their homes adequately this winter.

■Even local government building inspectors, who are normally the most trusted players in the game, may be under the pump in Tauranga for the doomed Bella Vista development. And of course there's "leaky homes".

Nelson Lebo
Nelson Lebo

It's an endless cascade of self-inflicted wounds. Is it any wonder the Building Code sits 20 years behind Europe, and Wellington lacks the courage to change it?

Improving existing homes need not be difficult or expensive. We proved that with our Castlecliff renovation seven years ago.

Building cosy, dry homes that are easy to heat need not be difficult or expensive. In less than a year we'll have proven this too.


Dr Nelson Lebo works with builders, architects, homeowners, landlords and tenants to improve housing performance.