Auckland’s post-war housing policy: Did we (ever) follow Canada , permitting secondary suites?

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 ( 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

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.



One thought on “Auckland’s post-war housing policy: Did we (ever) follow Canada , permitting secondary suites?”

  1. Hi.
    My interest is in why the post war housing south of Auckland (Panmure or Papakura maybe) was called Camp Bun. Beside the now motorway and original railway, it was housing for NZ post war families waiting for state housing/homes. I have photos of family and some history and I might be able to assist you. I passed homes while diving south recently which I believe are the same houses. I lived there sometime between 1947 and 1949.
    I now live in Australia and have done for many years and have no ability to research outside internet which has so far been less than successfull.


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