Here is an open letter to anyone with knowledge of New Zealand’s regulatory policy on self contained accommodation units in residential “zones”. I’ve asked Lisa Truttman over at her interesting timespanner site to help me out here….but heck, I’ll accept information from anyone in the know!!
I have both a personal and a professional interest in this topic: personal because I live in Christchurch (Lyttleton Harbour actually) and there is a critically serious accommodation shortage here that will only escalate over the next decade as the rebuild of Christchurch begins (when it ever does begin!!) , and professional, because I am an academic economist at the University of Canterbury beginning some research into the effects of regulations at municipal levels on serious accommodation shortages and the associated unaffordable rents and house prices (think Auckland ). You’ll see from my recent posts that I have been exploring how regulatory reform in Canada on secondary suite policy has changed the residential landscape there – for the better, for tenants, owners, and municipal councils.
Here is my question: I would like to find out what special measures – especially at local levels – have been taken in New Zealand urban areas (esp Auckland, possibly other main centers) during the post-war period in times of housing shortages . I am particularly interested in local community initiatives to help returning servicemen/women and their families obtain housing, either rental or ownership, in the main urban areas in New Zealand. I don’t mean in State provided housing or in purpose built camps/comppunds, but in options for self contained accommodation provided by existing residents in the areas where returning servicemen and their families would have wanted to live – ie in proximity to good transport, schools, parks, shopping and other services – but found both rents or house prices in these places unaffordable. An archivist at the Alexander Turnball pointed me to a Dept of Housing booklet “Buy, Build or Rent: housing assistance for the ex-serviceman” (1946) . This booklet mentions the existence of many initiatives at local community levels – but has no further information about them.
I suspect there may have been some significant and interesting local community changes in regulatory policies that either actively encouraged or turned a blind eye to initiatives taken by existing residents to provide secondary suite type self contained accommodation …but am only guessing at this stage. By “secondary suites” I mean self contained accommodation units (could be as small as a studio size apartment these days, or more substantial 2 or 3 bedroom units with separate living areas, bedrooms, kitchen facilities, toilet/shower, etc) , internal to or external to an existing dwelling- eg renovations of an existing house/garage/sleepout to create a second self contained accommodation unit . In NZ and OZ these go by the name “granny flats “, but of course their tenants, or owners, could be anyone but granny herself!
Did we in NZ ever follow Canada in this regard? For example, in Canada, returning servicemen after WW2 were provided with subsides and loans, as well as special tenement style housing as they were in New Zealand, but also existing homeowners in local communities were permitted and encouraged to develop secondary suite type accommodation for returning war vets . For example in Vancouver the City managers of the time actively encouraged these sorts of secondary suites for the first ten years after WW2 ended , but then in a succession of by-laws in the late 1950′s rescinded these permissions. In the 1990′s a policy u-turn occurred, especially in the greater metropolitan regions of Vancouver or Toronto where house prices and rents became out of reach for even those on middle class or higher incomes. [ [ I grew up in one such war vet tenement compound in Vancouver where the qualification for entry was to be a returning war vet with at least three kids to qualify - I think that may have been the "reason" my brother Michael was born in 1949 actually !] ]. In fact the BC provincial government has even put out a guide for municipalities seeking to implement a secondary suite policy (http://www.housing.gov.bc.ca/pub/secondary_suites.pdf) and CMHC is a strong advocate of permissive policies towards secondary suites as part of a portfolio of solutions to housing unaffordability problems in urban areas http://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/co/renoho/refash/refash_040.cfm
The problem is I’m not sure where to start to look for such information. I found only a short reference in Bush’s Decently and in Order (1972, p 289) in his discussion of end-of-war accommodation crises in Auckland…but that’s all:
“Towards. the end of the War the problem worsened: the Council concentrated more and more of its resources· on housing, “desperate” being increasingly supplanted by “critical’.’ in official terminology. At Dr McElroy’s ·suggestion, the standing Housing Committee was reconstituted in April 1944: the Mayor, John Allum, emphasized that the provision of more housing accommodation was second only in importance to winning the war. The Council’s major contribution towards ameliorating the situation, was of course, the transit camps converted from American army establishments. But they belong more properly to the post-war era and will be considered in a later chapter. Otherwise, the policy was “a combination of rehabilitation of existing houses and strict enforcement of the zoning scheme and by-laws.” Nevertheless, a number of the latter relating to building were revised or relaxed to facilitate the renovation of existing dwellings. In July 1945 regulations concerning fire-proofing and the sharing of amenities were eased.” (p 289, emphasis added)
My guess is that as a Commonwealth country NZ might have followed Canada in this after WW2….but it’s only a conjecture. And we certainly haven’t followed changing Canadian policy in the last decade!
Thanks for any help you can provide.