It’s nice to be able to talk about good things happening in the Wellington architectural market, and the recent announcement in the DomPost about the new replacements for the WCC Regent Park flats is, to me, really good news. Despite not mentioning who the architect is, they did at least provide a picture to entice us – and outwardly at least, this looks like any other developer housing:
We discussed affordable housing a short while ago, and my suggestion that some affordable housing be incorporated into a wide range of developments, including down at the waterfront, got a few really sharp replies, including these 2 from our contributor Honeywood:
“I also don’t get why we need council flats on the waterfront. To make us feel virtuous? Should we insist on low cost housing in Roseneath or Khandallah every time someone builds a townhouse? This isn’t urban planning but social engineering.”
“The WCC is already the second biggest provider of low cost housing in the country after the government – should they provide more? When it’s left to developers (or, worse, required of them) the results are not good. Witness the shoebox slums of central Auckland built for a disappearing international student market and funded by naïve Moms and Pops everywhere.”
Its a damn good question, and one that I don’t have a quick glib answer for: where and why should we provide for low-cost housing? And who should provide it? The (80s and 90s) answer to the second part of the question is easier than the first: “the market should provide, of course.” We live in a market society, and so we live, and die, by the market. Currently we’re doing a lot of dying by it of course, but so it’s interesting to see the Council enter the fray and really tackle the housing problem head on. Because currently, its not as if the market is going to be doing any of that.
So, at the WCC, under the guiding hand of a housing team with a good amount of experience in providing social housing: “the most radical plan is for the 38 dilapidated units at Regent Park flats, in Owen St, which are home mainly to single people in bedsits” and that plan is to replace the run-down units with “28 two- and three-bedroom townhouse units to accommodate up to 140 people.” As far as I understand, standards at the new units will be raised significantly from the existing run-down, badly insulated housing – and so hence resident’s lives should be improved significantly as well. One of the key driving factors in the redevelopments is to create larger units, not smaller, which goes well against the current market trends as noted by Honeywood above.
So the real answer to the question about who should provide social housing certainly at the moment seems to be the local Council, by employing good local architects; certainly that rather than relying on developers and the rate of returns required by the ‘markets’. There has been a lot of discussion in the press, by a wide range of people that really should know what they’re talking about: are we really seeing the end of Capitalism as we knew it?