Enough of politics – let’s get back to building. Although building is itself a political act (read Henri Lefebvre for explanation) and our attitude towards constructing buildings also involves those of a political persuasion, it can also be non-political and just plain sensible if we stick our heads together. We don’t yet know what Cerberus the three-headed dog, aka the Coalition of Chaos are going to do regarding housing – except that they seem to intend to repeal everything that Labour ever put in place – and they seem hell-bent on stirring up a shit storm on racial relations between Maori and Pakeha. We may expect to see the partial or complete end of the MDRS, and maybe even the stopping of construction at Kainga Ora or at least some changes to its operation, but as far as I understand there is a possibility of leaving the cities alone to make more of their decisions themselves. In which case, here’s a proposal for Wellington City Council that might be a wonderfully easy way to improve our population growth without going to silly extremes like eleven storeys in Johnsonville.
Anyone familiar with Wellington and its hillsides knows full well the amount of crazy winding roads we have, with impossible-to-access sections either well down or high up on a nearby hillside. Most houses have steps up or down a path – a friend of mine in Roseneath has almost 200 stairs to navigate daily, but it is hard work nonetheless. And yet, the ironic thing is that our streets are full of hundreds, maybe thousands of great, flat, level, roadside adjacent, potential living spaces, currently used only as storage for cars, but often with the best views ever. Yes, I’m talking Garage, and in a House Music kinda way. Doof, doof, doof.
So my starter questions for the day is: Why don’t we allow people to build and live on the Road Reserve, and create new housing there? We are allowed to build three storeys high now, on virtually any site in Wellington, so why not two storeys above the existing garage? After all, there is no shortage of opportunities.
One obvious answer is that the land labelled as Road Reserve is not, in fact, your land. It is the Council’s land. But most of you architects out there will know and have done an application for building something on Road Reserve, and apart from, I think, an annual Encroachment fee, it is usually quite alright, and is free. Am I right? I think I am. Let’s face it – the road reserves were created a hundred years ago when the Council was unsure if a street would stay small, or grow large. We really don’t need all that Road Reserve land any more – and Council need more money, more growth, and more brownfield development.
I was reminded of this when I went up to Roseneath the other day, near the former Toomath house on the side of the hill way above Oriental Bay. Multi-million dollar houses scattered all over the hillside, and row of aged garages along the road, hogging the best views, resolutely level with the road nearby. And, as far as I can tell, not used for housing cars, but instead mainly used for housing old crap, disused junk, and in some cases bicycles and kayaks. No signs of cars going in and out. So not really being used for garaging, as such, but clearly some of them have been there for 50 years or more.
I don’t think this is a cut and dried, black and white sort of matter, but instead there are many different shades of grey. Clearly some people have already built above their garage, and some may be already living there, but others are just simply a depository for crapola. And why? Who or what has decreed that some sites are suitable, and others not? Presumably if one site has been approved, then all of them could be? Clearly garage sites are not all suitable for housing – some are not even suitable for storing cars! – but what a great array of potential sites! With the average garage being around 3-4m wide x 5-7m long that is somewhere between 15-30m2 of floor area per floor. So, without doing any of the design, a simple two storey building to replace a garage could easily have a 60m2 footprint – living downstairs and bedrooms upstairs. Or even two storeys above a retained car parking spot.
Can anyone tell me what the difference is between the following examples? We can go from a carport (on Road Reserve), to a garage (also on RR), to a building which appears to be a place to stay above a garage, to another example of definitely a house with a street-front garage underneath. The subtle distinctions are lost on me. We need a legal mind. Anyone?
Clearly it can be done of you turn your mind to it. Question is, really, why not?