Homes People Can Afford

We are not building enough homes people can afford.

This was the focus of a workshop organised by He Kainga Oranga – The Housing and Health Research Programme, from the University of Otago in mid 2012. Since then,  Sarah Bierre, Professsor Philippa Howden-Chapman and Lisa Early have been busy compiling written contributions from a number of thought leaders in the field of affordable housing.

Affordable Housing

Affordable Housing in the News
Affordable Housing is a big political issue and is likely to remain in the news for some time.

This issue of housing affordability is everywhere. Just yesterday there were multiple news items on the back of National’s policy release for first home buyers and the provision of housing is likely to be an election issue for the Auckland Mayoralty.

But affordable housing is not just an Auckland, or Christchurch issue. It’s an issue around the world. I have a Google alert set for “affordable housing” and every day it’s loaded with 10 or more news items from all over the globe.

What’s the Purpose of a Home?

Gaston Bachelard
Gaston Bachelard. French Philosopher. June 27, 1884
– October 16, 1962

In responding to this question during our interview, Sarah gave me a unique but inspiring answer, quoting the 19th Century French philosopher, Gaston Bachelard from his compilation, The Poetics of Space:

I should say: the house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.

A house should be more than just a shelter, but how can we reach this inspiring and nurturing level when, in some cases, we’re not even providing adequate protection from the physical elements?

What is a home people can afford?

An affordable home is often considered to be one where the costs of ownership are no more than 25% – 30% of the household income. The critical part of this definition is so much the number, but the concept of total cost of ownership. Owning and operating a house isn’t just about amassing a deposit and convincing a bank to lend money. It’s about servicing that loan in the long run while paying for utility bills, transport costs, maintenance and improvements and everything else that goes along with living in a certain location.

All too often, the issue of housing affordability is couched only in terms of purchase price.

How can people afford quality?

A key message from Sarah, was that the focus should be on the quality of housing. This doesn’t have to, and indeed should not, imply expensive. The point is that warm, healthy homes where people can feel safe and so important for everyone, not just dreamers.

Homes People Can Afford Book Launch

Homes People Can Afford Book Launch

The book ‘Homes People Can Afford’ will be launched on Tuesday August 20th at the National Library in Wellington. This week you can pre-order your copy from the Sustainable Cities website. If you’re in town, make sure you head along to the event. Otherwise, pick up a copy.

How can you be part of solution for providing affordable, quality homes? What’s your shelter day-dream?


The Poetics of Space - Gaston Bachelard Sarah admits that Gaston’s seminal work ‘The Poetics of Space”, is pretty heavy (as I’m sure a lot of 19th century French philosophy is), but well worth it. Learning some poetry and philosophy would also be a great way to impress your friends!