Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Are all Cities Born the Same?

Urbanisation and development: a history in under 200 words
Way back in my youth we were taught that cities grew because of specialisation.  As societies became more specialised they produced sufficient food to support bigger populations.  This, the manufacture of basic tools and implements, and exchange of surpluses led to concentrated settlement.  This could be where raw materials were present, transport routes converged, or defences could be mounted against marauding neighbours.  Craftsmen multiplied, guilds formed, markets emerged, armies assembled, merchants traded, knowledge deepened.   So towns and cities became centres of production, repositories of knowledge, places where wealth – and poverty – accumulated, where capital and labour met. 

This sequence was highlighted in 19th Century Europe and North America.  Rural productivity gains released whole communities from the land, their labour supporting the emergence of machine-based factories in the cities. People housed in rapidly growing urban areas could be employed to generate far more goods – and wealth – than any subsistence, feudal, or village-based society could. 
This pattern was repeated more or less in Asia’s development and continues in developing nations in different ways today. 

Can cities grow themselves?
Of course, there are variations.  Certain cities may be favoured, for example, by technical progress. A low cost workforce, evolution of skills and technology can compensate for less than ideal location. And in today’s age of middle class consumerism sunshine and sea can favour localities with otherwise few advantages. 

So the current policy preoccupation with how cities might grow themselves is interesting.  This might lead to plans to increase densities in the hope of lifting productivity; or pushing the quirky and creative in an attempt to attract knowledgeable people and knowledge-industries; or promoting Big Projects like performing arts or sports stadiums and convention centres.  
Promoting cities this way, the theory goes, will make countries succeed through a process of civic bootstrapping –creating urban advantage out of nothing, or at least very little. 

How realistic is this, and how widely applicable?

The Triumph of Cities?
Academic Edward Glaeser’s recent book, The Triumph of Cities, brings together a lot of these threads.  It goes further, turning my old professors’ theories upside down.  According to Glaeser the city drives development, it’s a human "invention" that itself facilitates advancement.  The city is a generator of ideas and not just the repository, the source of development rather than the consequence, and, latterly, the saviour of the environment, all driven by the way it concentrates human capital. 

From his experience of cities Glaeser offers a prognosis.  If we accept the city as a triumph, we can live with the negatives, including urban impoverishment.  Even where people congregate in poverty they will find a way to progress.  But in spatial terms that progress, he thinks, should be upward rather than outward.  Higher density cities mean even more interaction of people, more productivity and the bonus of a smaller carbon footprint.

While these ideas have popular appeal, I’m not convinced of their universality.  I don’t doubt an association between urbanisation and progress.  Much of Glaeser’s career has been based on demonstrating it.  But I don’t believe even now we fully understand cause and effect – certainly not enough to provide a recipe for prosperity based on one view of how cities should evolve.  Nor do we have the crystal ball to understand the future technologies that will shape – and reshape – cities.

My preoccupation has been with cities in a very small corner of the world and their particular shape and needs.  Based on that experience, though, I’m not sure that Glaeser’s bigger corner justifies the sweeping generalisations he makes.
The elephant in the urban room
I have examined UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs World Urbanization 2009 Revision data for 1960 to 2010 to consider the dynamics of global urbanisation.  Urbanisation is taking place today at a rate without precedent.  Just how far, then, does dwelling on past experience take us?

The world’s population grew by around 3.9 billion over the last 50 years.  64% of that growth (close to 2.5 billion people) was in urban areas, a spectacular 250% increase in urban dwellers.  Of these 57% were in Asia and 14% each in Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean (see diagram).  
Europe and North America, where much of our thinking about cities originates, together accounted for just 14% of urban growth.  How far can prescriptions for the rest of the world be based on this heritage now that the world’s biggest urban growth challenges reside elsewhere?

Where urban growth has taken place, 1950-2010 (Millions of Residents)
 Source: UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs

Global urbanisation trends
I plotted the growth increments for each world region divided among cities with more or less than 1 million residents (as well as rural areas).  There are significant differences, even at this high level.

Look at the three developing continents.  In Africa, rural growth remained strong.  Only since 1980 has urban growth made significant inroads, mainly in smaller cities.  In contrast Latin America’s rural population actually declined over the last two decades, and large cities kept pace with smaller ones.  In Asia, urbanisation has outstripped rural growth since 1990.  Here, smaller settlements dominated.  
50 Years of Urban Growth: Asia, Latin America, and Africa

Note: Vertical axes have different scales
                                Source: UN DESA

 Even on the more developed continents patterns diverge.  Rural depopulation is stronger in Europe than North America.  In Europe smaller settlements have taken over growth from larger cities.  In the United States large cities remain dominant. 

Note: Vertical axes have different scales
Source: UN DESA

 (Oceania is complicated because of small populations, only six large cities, and because Brisbane, Perth, Auckland, and Adelaide all hit millionaire status during the 1980s and 90s).
So who’s right?
There is no obvious pattern here.  Maybe we cannot generalise about urbanisation.  We are seeing quite different forms and stages of urbanisation in quite different settings.  And among cities even within the same region there are bound to be huge differences in urban process, progress, quality, and character. 

How well does Glaeser’s book reflect this diversity, and how widely applicable might his prescriptions be?  The Triumph of Cities refers to around 75 cities.[1]  Collectively they account for around 11% of the world’s urban population. 
Nearly a third (24) have populations over 5 million. This compares with just 9% of the world’s 590 cities of 750,000 people or more.  There are 19 cities in the world housing more than 10 million people: as far as I can see Glaeser mentions nine of these, focusing on places like New York, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco, London, and Paris.   

And, half of Glaeser’s city references are from North America (36 from the United States) and close to a quarter from Europe.  Only three Chinese cities appear to merit a mention, and four from India.  Yet according to the UN data, of the 590 cities with over 750,000 residents 131 are in China and 59 in India, compared with 56 in North America.
While the Triumph of the City is informative and occupies an interesting space between academia and populism, it falls short of its ambitions.  It draws sweeping conclusions from a partial and inevitably selective sample. 

Perhaps ambitions to produce a prescription for successful cities will never be realised.  I suspect my teachers’ theories also fall short in today’s urbanising world.  But I cannot accept that the city is a triumph: it just is, and it is in many forms, each with its own challenges and opportunities.  Even if we accepted Glaeser’s prescription for better cities, we would have to ask for whose cities, and where? 

[1]   Based on a count of cities cited in the index

Monday, July 18, 2011

Being dense about dwellings: check the numbers!

Good news, bad news
In a previous posting I suggested that in New Zealand we are heading into the perfect housing storm

Now we have news that house prices and rentals are on the climb again, although stocks remain tight, as an annual inflation rate of 5.3% hits a 21 year high.  The economists are suggesting this is good news, although it means interest rates may have to be pushed up sooner than expected.

Well the bad news is that the housing crisis might just have worsened. 

Sure, its not an across-the-board crisis, but it is very real to large and important sections of our population.  Lack of housing affordability remains a threat to social sustainability and economic recovery.  So how are we responding to the threat -- or perhaps now the reality -- of a perfect housing storm?  What provisions are we making in our urban plans?

Smaller boxes – bigger footprint
Urban planners are still more preoccupied with fitting more dwellings into smaller areas than they are with responding to people's needs for housing.  It might help shift this fixation to point out that the preferred compact city solution is not only socially destructive, because it doesn't reflect need and does nothing for affordability, but it is also environmentally short-sighted.

Think about the metrics.

Take 100 people and house them at 1.5 residents per dwelling.  That’s arbitrary, but it reflects a widespread expectation that most new dwellings will house smaller households in central locations. 

In the interests of sustainability, let’s assume the resulting 67 dwellings are small, so that we can fit more of them onto less land.  Say, 120 sq meters per dwelling.  That totals 8,000 sq metres or thereabouts (more if we count the common areas in apartment buildings), 80 sq metres per person.  It’s also 67 kitchens, 67 lounges, maybe 67 media centres, at least 67 bathrooms, maybe some additional lighting for common areas and even some lifts.

Now take 100 people and fit them in at 3 people per dwelling, terraces, duplexes or fully detached houses.  Let’s make the dwellings bigger, say 200 sq metres.  We now need only 33 dwellings, 6,600 sq metres of dwelling, or 66 sq metres per person.  Less space per person, sure, but that's okay because now we need just half the kitchens, bathrooms, lounges and media centres.  However we look at it, we’ve used a lot less resources and have a spare 1,400 sq metres for open space, extra gardens, courtyards, whatever.  And with the capacity for extra bedrooms, we have much more flexible housing stock.

So which is the more sustainable?  Surely bigger dwellings with higher occupancies.  Surprised?
Can we plan for higher occupancies?
Now, we can’t engineer household size, can we?  Well, actually we already do.  With a housing shortfall we now require young adults to stay longer with their parents, force singles to move in with others,  require couples to take on boarders, or even promote multi-family living, all boosting occupancies.

So let’s at least understand that building more, smaller dwellings, especially medium- or high-rise apartments, does not necessarily deliver sustainable urban settlement, nor does it provide the flexibility to make the higher occupancy "solutions" we force on people easy to live with.

Larger dwellings do allow for diverse living arrangements, though; more multi-generational living, more non-family households, more sharing.  Like them or not, such arrangements are likely to increase, if only in response to the affordability issues we seem intent on entrenching.

So what’s happening to demand?
So why are planners trying to put more people into smaller dwellings anyway?  How relevant is the expectation that average household size will be smaller in the future than it has been in the past?

Most forecasts of housing “demand” simply extrapolate diminishing occupancy across demographic projections.  its all about the coefficients, and the assumption that household structures won’t change much in the medium to long-term. 
Well, it’s not that simple.

Things like an unexpected boom in the dissolution of relationships over the past three or four decades, the rapid growth in migration, and the recent stabilisation and even reversal in occupancy rates undermine the conceit that we can accurately forecast the structure, preferences, and behaviour of households 20 or 30 years hence.  If that's the case, why are our prescriptions for housing increasingly rigid?

Projecting household types
To understand this let’s stay with the current ”best”  projections of what households might look like in the future, and think about the implications for housing.

Statistics New Zealand (SNZ) medium projections to 2031 indicate that families with children will account for a minority of household growth in our main cities (see chart).  The figures may even shrink in Wellington and Christchurch.  According to this projection, they will make up 28% of new households in Auckland, though, so we could still need over 71,000 new dwellings for families there.  It’s reasonable to expect that detached housing will still work best for them.
Household Category Projections, Statistics New Zealand
Couples will account for more growth, though, maybe 36% of new households in Auckland according to SNZ, and singles for 32%.  So let's think about the preferences of the small household segment. 

So what will the small household segment look  like?
To get a feel for this, I divided the SNZ age projections into four (setting aside the main family age cohorts) : young adults (aged 20-29), empty nesters (the kids have left home, aged 50-64); early retirees (65-79), and later retirees (80+).  These are the groups most small households will come from.  But they have quite different housing preferences, so the nature of future demand for smaller dwellings depends on which ones grow the most.

Age-Based Housing Demand Segments (based on SNZ Projections)
So who will dominate growth?
Empty nesters and retirees will dominate the demand for new houses.  And these are not usually people who want to move into small, centralised apartments, at least not as a primary residence. 

Many of them have significant financial equity in their existing homes and emotional equity in their neighbourhoods.  If they move into smaller dwellings, they won’t be that small!  They will expect them to be well appointed and well located, probably close to where they already live. 

They won't want high or even medium rise.  And they are  likely to seek three or four bedrooms.  They will need the space to maintain active  lives into their seventies and eighties, more so than past generations.  They will be accommodating visiting family and friends; they will need offices, hobby areas, workshops, and storage. 

Here’s a model to take seriously if we are serious about sustainability
And as the baby boomers eventually become less independent, we might expect them to head into retirement villages, already a booming – and highly sustainable – form of housing.

In fact, we should look seriously at retirement villages if we want to understand the sorts of arrangements that could dominate new housing demand over the next 30 years.  Here, the market seems to have got it right. 

They offer varied living arrangements – detached and semi detached housing, terraces, apartments, and even on-site nursing facilities.  They offer medium density living with plenty of green space and gardens; common areas and shared facilities for recreation and leisure; plenty of on-site activity to cut down transport needs but also on-site parking to reflect the realities of modern living.  They achieve density and sustainability with style.  And – there must be a lesson here – they do it overwhelmingly in suburban if not city edge localities. 

So let's not assume that rising house prices mean a return to business as usual.  Far from it - freeing up the housing market must remain a top priority if the economy is in recovery mode.  And let's start looking to the suburbs  –and beyond  – for the housing solutions that might just help it stay that way.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

It’s all about housing ... isn’t it?

What is planned for new houses in Auckland?
The discussion of housing in Auckland Unleashed, which sets the Council’s thinking for a spatial plan, follows a tried and tested formula.  It talks about the different sorts of houses we might use to achieve higher residential densities in the city. 

On housing and neighbourhoods it says that it is important that:

Auckland has a clear strategy concerning the way it wants development to proceed in our town centres, avenues and areas of intensification. Delivering new and appropriate house types requires a rethink in planning policy (specifically density rules and onsite parking requirements), a commitment to achieving design quality, new approaches to home ownership and land subdivision, and importantly, investment in the amenity of areas (streets and open spaces) in which they are proposed. (p143)

This sounds well and good, but it’s planning for a particular vision of how a city might work.  It falls short on how its residents might want to live.  Like all such strategies, it’s about housing as a land use and houses as design elements.  It’s not about households and their residents. 

It was the same in the old Auckland Regional Growth Strategy; notions of diversity and affordability emphasised structures for smaller dwellings, rather than what people might need.  And from what I have seen, it’s been the same in the planning documents for the Bay of Plenty, Hamilton, Christchurch, and Wellington. 

So what about the people who will live in them?
I looked elsewhere in Auckland Unleashed to see what it might say about people rather than buildings. There were some expectations outlined under the heading of Housing (page 42).  But they were hardly convincing.  Here are some responses to what I found there:
Auckland Unleashed says: Households with children will decline to one third of households by 2040. 
Really?  That’s not very helpful.  A quick look at Statistics NZ’s latest medium projection for the region (to 2031) does show a likely slow-down in the rate of growth.  But it also projects 71,000 more families with children in 2031 compared with 2006.  Sure, their share of the total will contract (from 52% of the total to 44% in this projection) but let’s not obscure the need to house many more families over the next two or three decades.    If migration is a key driver of growth, the figure will probably be higher.  How and where will we be housing our families? 

Auckland Unleashed says: There will be more divergent family structures –single person, multi-generational, and extended families.
Good.  So hopefully plans will encourage more big houses, especially given the significance of international immigration as a driver of Auckland’s growth.  That’s a big group of people, many of whom will want bigger houses - three, four, five or more bedrooms.  That’s part of Auckland’s appeal to some of them.  For others it’s simply a reasonable response to cultural expectations.

Look at the census data. While there are limits in its accuracy, a pretty clear picture emerges.  The number of one and two bedroom dwellings hardly increased from 1996 to 2006 (what growth did occur happened between 2001 and 2006).  Some 30% of the growth was in three bedroom dwellings, and high 59% in houses with four bedrooms or more.  
Interestingly, the number of small households grew much faster over the period than the number of small dwellings, measured in these terms.  Even smaller households, it seems, like larger houses:
Comparing Growth in Households and Dwellings by Size
If we want Auckland to continue to grow and not just age, there may have to be plenty of larger houses on the planning menu.

Auckland Unleashed says: Home ownership rates are in decline and possibly 40% of households will be in rental accommodation by 2050, not always by choice.
Now this is a worry.  New Zealand has a long-standing tradition of home ownership.  Much as over-investment has been implicated in the housing bubble, owning a home still plays a significant role in our society and economy. 

So we shouldn’t treat the emergence of the intermediate housing market as inevitable, or in the least bit desirable.  This comprises young households with significant income but not enough to become owner occupiers, or to step off the bottom rung of the housing ladder.  The rapid growth of this segment is the reason for the jump in the rental market. 

This has big implications for family formation and fertility, educational attainment, employment stability, and a sense of community and belonging.  Home ownership is still important to developing a personal asset base that can encourage entrepreneurship and investment in an economy where over-consumption may have been a barrier to long-term growth. 
I cannot see anything in Auckland Unleashed that might counter this decline in home ownership, and if the spatial plan it will inform persists in promoting land rationing through the way it applies the Metropolitan Urban Limit and by pushing inappropriate apartments as a solution to affordability, it will only make the problem worse.

In fact, Auckland Unleashed says to expect in excess of 300,000 households in rental units by 2050.
This is not something that people necessarily want, and not something we should simply accept. Between 1996 and 2006 an increase of 42,000 rental households brought the city’s total rentals to 145,000, 34% of all private dwellings.  This is one of the faces of our housing affordability crisis.

Auckland Unleashed talks about another 330,000 dwellings in total by 2040, and implies 155,000 rentals by 2050 (I’m not sure why two different end dates are used). 

Those that can may just go
But, then again, it may not happen. The inability to buy a home may simply push more young, skilled, and talented people offshore, and discourage the skilled and talented people we hope to attract from overseas to replace them.  If we don’t address the affordability or the suitability of housing for young families then we may as well scale back population projections.  But I don’t see such a slow growth strategy discussed in Auckland Unleashed, even though it is a likely outcome of an inappropriate housing policy.

And many of  those that can't will live in bigger households
There are other responses: one is to pack more people into existing structures.  This is already happening with more sub-letting of spare rooms and attics; more inter-generational multi-family households. 

There’s (indirect) evidence that this has been happening a while.  According to the Census, there was an average of 2.95 residents per (private) dwelling in Auckland in 2001.  The average size of additional households over the next five years was 3.22 (the equivalent figure in Manukau City was 4.03).  Consequently, any long-term fall in dwelling occupancy that might have been factored into housing projections can now be reversed.  That raises interesting questions over the housing mix we might be imposing through our plans.

With the slowdown in the housing market since 2006 the chances are that in many parts of Auckland household size is continuing to increase.  Unfortunately, that’s associated with increasing social inequity.  And I couldn’t find anything in Auckland Unleashed that addressed how to plan for increasing household sizes while promoting smaller dwellings, or for the possible impact on social disparities.
Time to introduce people to plans?
We are heading on to shaky ground with housing plans and policies that focus on structure and form rather than on the needs, preferences, and behaviour of households and residents.  Delivering a sustainable city may not be the same as delivering a sustainable community. 

Hopefully, the spatial plan when it is prepared will leave plenty of room for the middle ground to emerge, for housing to reflect what people want, rather than just planners' and designers' models of what they should be allowed.

Friday, July 1, 2011

What happens when there are not enough houses?

Closing CHRANZ
Yesterday the Centre for Housing Research Aotearoa New Zealand (CHRANZ) closed. This public agency funded independent and contestable research into New Zealand’s housing markets.

The Centre commissioned some important research, developing tools for analysing housing markets; looking at housing supply and demand, and their impact on prices; identifying the needs of different groups; examining regional markets; and most importantly documenting changing trends in affordability, ownership, and the disturbing emergence of the intermediate housing market.

But this posting is not a wake for CHRANZ.  Fortunately it has created an important knowledge base that enables us to understand the challenges we face, and which will be relevant for some time to come.[1]

It’s ironic, though, that its closure takes place at a time when there are more questions over housing than ever, more challenges and more uncertainties.

Housing – the perfect storm?
Rebuilding Christchurch The earthquakes in Christchurch throw up huge questions over how and where many residents will be housed, and even more questions over just what will happen to the city’s population in the medium term, and its projected demand for housing.

Since writing the first version of this post I have been reminded of the leaky homes saga - a housing crisis all of its own.  The New Zealand Herald today reported that many owners of monolithic cladding homes which are not damaged or have been certified as watertight will be in for a shock when new valuations are received: the market is downgrading them on apperances alone. That in itself is enough to slow the market down as equity diminishes and the rungs in the housing ladder get just that much further apart for a large number of owners.

Much worse though is the continuing prospect of major repairs or even demolition for those that do have leaky homes.  The 2009 "consensus forecast" was 42,000 homes leaking then or that would do so in the future. (The figure could be a lot higher).  That's a lot of people stalled in the housing market, a significant number of whom presumaly need new homes.

Housing affordability has become a persistent problem, nowhere more than in Auckland. This is manifest in measures of housing stress, falling affordability, and a rapidly growing rental. [2]

Rapid growth in rental demand (up 56% between 1996 and 2006) is happening in a country with no strong culture of renting (except in social housing), with poorly defined tenant/landlord rights for long-term tenancies, and a weak supply sector.  Rentals used to be based on ageing detached housing stock.  In the past decade small apartments proliferated.  In both cases, though, landlords are mainly small scale investors, individuals, family trusts, and the like.  A string of failures among developers and financiers has now scared them away, highlighting a major institutional market gap.
The Intermediate Rental Market (households with at least one income earner that cannot afford to purchase housing even in the lower price quartile) has exploded. This group grew by two thirds and accounted for all national growth in rental demand from1996 to 2006:

Growth of the Rental Market and  the Emergence of the intermediate Market 1996-2006

Source: DTZ New Zealand (2008) The Intermediate housing Market in New Zealand CHRANZ, p7)
Falling home ownership raises social and economic uncertainties over: household consumption behaviour; family formation and fertility; marriage dissolution; household mobility; quality of schooling received; stability of labour markets; inter-generational equity; crowding and public health; the emigration of skilled people; and so forth.  The tight rental market  where stock is low and rents are high - in Auckland especially - exacerbates these issues.

Housing starts have fallen dramatically since 2006, shrinking supply and sustaining high prices. We can see this by comparing annual dwelling consents issued between 2001 and 2006 with those issued since. Nowhere is the fall more pronounced than in Auckland:

Annual Average Dwelling Consents Issued:
The most obvious consequence of this collapse in house building is that we cannot begin to meet demand for new housing called for by our population growth, with new houses falling well behind our projected needs.  The first column in  the diagram below shows the level of house building between 2001 and 2006.  The second column shows projected housing from 2006 to 2016 (most forecasts agree on these sorts of figures).  The third column shows what we got over the the last four years - already well behind the projections.
Actual and Projected Housing Demand, 2006-2010

Source: Building Research Association of New Zealand (2007), Changing Housing Need Report 183,

And help isn’t obviously on the way. Over the three years to March 2011 construction employment shrank by 15,800 nationally or 12% (Quarterly Labour Market Indicators, Statistics New Zealand), confirming that the sector is hollowing out. According to the Statistics New zealand Business Directory, Auckland lost 4,820 employees from construction over just two years ending February 2010, 13% shrinkage.

Recent migration offers no consolation. Among people coming and going who nominated their occupations, New Zealand only gained in the professional category in 2010.  It lost out on people in the trades, technical vocations, machinery operations, and labouring. It looks like we've got more people to think, plan, regulate, and litigate, and a few less doing things.

Occupational Composition of Net International Migration, 2010

Source: Statistics New Zealand
A quick intro to the agencies
CHRANZ' role was to help us understand these issues, and explore solutions.

Other agencies continue to be responsible for devising and delivering housing policy solutions. The Department of Building and Housing is responsible for the regulation and standards required to protect home buyers or renters. The Department also monitors the housing sector and the building industry, and undertakes monitoring and policy research.

Housing Corporation New Zealand is a crown entity responsible for social housing.  It manages 66,000 rental properties and also works with third sector providers. These are the community based organisations, such as the Cooperative Housing Centre of Aotearoa New Zealand, that work to get low income households into their own homes.

The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has also got involved, preparing a report on the price of housing in 2008, and continues to monitor things. Now the Productivity Commission is also looking closely at housing, showing that government is taking the current state of affairs seriously.

The Building Research Association of New Zealand (BRANZ) represents the building industry and promotes good practice. Its research tends to focus on materials, building systems, standards, and the like, although it has delved into projecting future demand.
Of course, local councils have the most immediate impact on and prime responsibility for housing supply and affordability through their capacity to zone and release greenfield and brownfield sites, how they regulate it, the infrastructure services they provide, and the charges – including development levies – they apply to do so.

So how do we weather the storm?
How these agencies work together and adapt their programmes to focus on a real, pressing, and complex need is the outstanding question in today’s housing policy environment. Getting across multiple agencies and creating the conditions for them, the third sector, and the private housing suppliers to work towards the common aim of increased, affordable housing of an appropriate standard is a major challenge that the country faces.

The Canterbury earthquakes may be the game changer. They could demonstrate just how we might respond to a housing crisis through a statutory body set up to drive recovery (the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority) and a commitment to training the people required to resource rebuilding.
This is important because, while they may not be as spectacular, visible, or traumatic, there are housing crises elsewhere in New Zealand.

Moving forward
CHRANZ has set out the parameters of the housing problems facing us: now may be the time for those left standing to progress the solutions - with urgency. 

This will involve a range of parties working purposefully together to provide practical and realistic solutions.  Among other things, the private and public sector and central and local government may have to really collaborate towards a common end.  And councils need to think seriously about what the part have to play to avert the crisis.  It may just be time to shift their plans for housing to focus on people's needs and the constraints they face.

If they do not get on with it we may be left with just three possibilities.

One is that we will be landed with powerful housing authorities in different parts of the country tasked with circumventing existing barriers to solve the problem.  Crises may justify centralising power.

Another is that frustrated demand might just disappear, melting with the departure of growing numbers of young people (and others) from New Zealand, and fewer arrivals from elsewhere.  This does nothing for the economy as a whole and might further reduce the capacity to resource the housing supply sector.

The third? A deepening housing crisis, with all the personal, social, and economic dislocation that can bring.

[1]           I have to declare an interest here, having been involved in one of the last pieces of research commissioned by CHRANZ – but not yet published.
[2]        DTZ New Zealand, 2007, The Role of Home Ownership and the Role of the Private Rental Market in the Auckland Region, CHRANZ, Pp81-91.