The Northern Advocate

Housing crisis nut is a hard one to crack


If we solve the housing shortage by constructi­ng dwellings in much the same way as we make cars, life would be sweeter. Houses built in factories, under a controlled environmen­t with standardis­ed components, would make the process better, cheaper, faster. Bulk-bought materials, assembled under cover, would keep the framing dry and with low emissions, controllin­g costs, timeframes and quality.

Sadly, the dream is yet to be realised, with the sector blighted by a string of high-profile failures.

Last Friday, off-site Auckland residentia­l builder Podular Housing Systems became one of the largest collapses in the modular housing sector with an estimated deficit of $5.2 million. The first report on the Wairau Valle-headquarte­red company from liquidator­s Benjamin Francis and Simon Dalton estimated more than $2m had been paid in deposits by customers whose homes weren’t started. The Herald has featured buyers’ concerns after paying for homes never delivered — in two customers’ cases, more than $500,000.

The Commerce Commission’s market study into residentia­l building supplies out this week also cited off-site manufactur­ing and prefabrica­tion.

In 2020, one of our most successful house builders said it was a good idea. Tony Houston, who once owned the west and north Auckland franchises of our biggest house builder, G.J. Gardner, likened house building to car manufactur­ing. He was then having new houses built in southern China, shipped to sites at Hobsonvill­e Point, and sold from $650,000 each.

After the first three, many more went up on neighbouri­ng sites but Houston hasn’t spoken in public since, and there have been reported delays.

Last year, a modular apartment business that won $20m of government contracts went into liquidatio­n, abandoning two Auckland sites with partly finished homes. Integrated Modular Build was building 50 new apartments for Kāinga Ora . The company was forecast to have a $1.6m deficit.

Kāinga Ora said it had awarded $10m of contracts to the company on Kervil Ave, Te Atatu and $10m of work for a super-lot on Tonar St in Northcote.

Prefab housing is no quick solution, says Grant Porteous of G.J. Gardner. That business uses a level of prefabrica­tion and smart systems and processes to speed up the entire build. But most of its homes are still built in the traditiona­l way — on their sites.

It’s tempting to be starry-eyed about modular, off-site or prefabrica­ted homes.

But those who have lost life savings when businesses fail are seeing more evidence of just how hard this housing crisis nut is to crack.

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