New vi­sion

Com­mu­nity hous­ing that as­pires to beauty

HOME Magazine NZ - - Contents - Text — Cather­ine Smith Pho­tog­ra­phy — Ross Keane

True to his or­gan­i­sa­tion’s name, Mark Wool­ley, who leads com­mu­nity hous­ing provider Vi­sionWest Com­mu­nity Trust, is a vi­sion­ary about what a good home can do to trans­form lives. “We put peo­ple into a house, but then we ask, ‘How can we see your life grow?’,” says Wool­ley. So­cial work­ers work with fam­i­lies to set goals, whether it’s study, work or bud­get­ing, or even how to run a house to keep it dry and ven­ti­lated. “We’re driven by the needs of the fam­ily, but start with rents that are only 25 per­cent of in­come. That’s the poverty-cy­cle breaker,” he says. Wool­ley be­lieves that trans­for­ma­tion is helped by mak­ing a place beau­ti­ful; it im­bues pride and in­volves peo­ple in mak­ing their neigh­bour­hood and com­mu­nity a bet­ter place to live. He found kin­dred spirits in Dave Strachan and Pat de Pont of Strachan Group Ar­chi­tects (SGA). De Pont had con­nected with Mark and Lisa Wool­ley – Lisa is CEO of Vi­sionWest, Mark heads hous­ing – some 30 years ago so they were a nat­u­ral choice

when the or­gan­i­sa­tion fi­nally bought a piece of land on Tri­an­gle Road in 2012. Vi­sionWest and SGA inched their way through gov­ern­ment fund­ing bids, neigh­bours’ ob­jec­tions to a so­cial-hous­ing project, plan­ning con­sents and rapidly ris­ing build­ing costs. By the time they were ready to get off the ground in 2015, a $1 mil­lion short­fall meant that things had to be stripped out of the build for the 10 two- to four-bed­room town­houses. This is where SGA’s en­thu­si­asm for fast, af­ford­able and en­ergy-ef­fi­cient con­struc­tion meth­ods came to the fore. Pre-cast con­crete shared walls, con­crete ground floors and up­per floor cross-lam­i­nated tim­ber floors went up fast, as well as the struc­turally in­su­lated roof pan­els. Front and back walls were pre-fit­ted with stan­dard glazed win­dow and door join­ery. “We left walls and floors raw, just sealed and fin­ished them, so we could put that money to de­tails such as the stair balustrades,” says de Pont. On the land­ing they added a study area for kids, mak­ing it an as­pi­ra­tional space. To re­duce costs, there’s only one bath­room in the four-bed­room homes, but they split out the toi­let, shower and hand basin so more peo­ple can use it at once, and put in a toi­let in the down­stairs laun­dry. In­stead of a din­ing room, the kitchens are L-shaped or one long bench, so a ta­ble can sit in the mid­dle, farm­house style. The houses are north fac­ing for pas­sive so­lar gain; the con­crete sur­faces pro­vide ther­mal mass; north-fac­ing clerestory win­dows pull light into the south­ern bed­rooms; and there are sof­fits and crossven­ti­lat­ing win­dows to deal with sum­mer heat. Above-code in­su­la­tion and wall-panel heaters keep the homes warm and dry in win­ter. Wool­ley has ten­ants telling him of kids who’d pre­vi­ously been con­stantly sick and who haven’t re­quired a doc­tor’s visit since mov­ing into their new home. Im­por­tantly, the houses are ar­ranged to en­cour­age res­i­dents to mix with each other – gen­er­ally “mak­ing their place a bet­ter place”, he says. For res­i­dents to be warm, dry and happy is a game changer, says Wool­ley. “Another stress in a stress­ful life is gone. You don’t have to do af­ford­able hous­ing badly, be­cause it has been done badly be­fore. How can you wake up in the morn­ing and not be do­ing it beau­ti­fully?”

Project ‘Tri­an­gle Road’ com­mu­nity hous­ing Ar­chi­tects Strachan Group Lo­ca­tion Massey, Auck­land Brief Well-built, warm, dry homes with as­pi­ra­tional de­tails.

1 —The ser­vice courts and ro­bust, low­main­te­nance wall claddings face south. 2 —A study nook at the top of the stairs. 3 —Cost sav­ings were made with walls and floors, which were sealed but un­dressed, so that em­bel­lish­ments such as the balustrades could be in­stalled.

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