New Zealand’s main cities are under immense housing pressures. This Wellington City Council project aims to develop a solution that enables Wellingtonians to be well housed (both now and in the future) and that the complex task of housing supply issues is being addressed so that future generations can also enjoy the benefits of living in the Capital.
The team had a brief moment to catch up and tell us how the project has been going so far during the accelerator, as well as inform us of the difference they are aiming to make.
What are you working on?
Wellington’s population is growing. We want to make sure that all Wellingtonians, now and in the future, are well housed. There is only so much land left to develop the 30,000 homes we need in the next 25 years. Most of that land exists in small pockets, some of it in the backyards of existing properties. We want to help those people who can do the most to increase the supply of houses (i.e. people that own land) to unlock that potential.
What is the Wellington Housing project all about?
House prices have been increasing astronomically in most parts of New Zealand, with more and more people being locked out of the dream of home ownership. An increase in rental prices has lead to more and more of our most vulnerable population groups having to sleep rough, in cars, overcrowded houses and temporary solutions like caravan parks and motels. According to government figures, New Zealand is 70,000 homes short of the number that’s needed. We need to increase the supply of housing but there is only so much land left to build houses that need building. One of the biggest assumptions we make is that the only way to find land is to spread the urban sprawl, build out and out. Urban sprawl comes at a massive financial, social and environmental cost, from underground infrastructure costs, cost of new roads and motorways, traffic and congestion, loss of productivity and productive land and the loss of time people have to spend with family. We think there is another way. A lot of the land which is able to be developed needs to be in order to meet our growing housing demand exists in small pockets, some of it in the backyards of existing properties. Traditionally there is a lot of support and incentives offered for a handful of developers, who are often the ‘big players’ building dozens of houses at once. However, when it comes to the tens of thousands of homeowners who could be building thousands of new homes every year, very little support is offered. This is what we are trying to change.
What difference will the project make to NZ public sector?
Wellington is not alone in feeling the effects of a limited housing supply. We hope that through empowering landowners with information and the know-how, we will unlock the potential for most of New Zealand’s growth centres and urban areas to grow in a more sustainable way. We think that the value we can add to the New Zealand public sector and the country as a whole, is to open our eyes to a different way of urban planning and growth, a model that is organic and community led and driven.
What are you hoping to achieve by the end of Lighting Lab GovTech?
The development process can be unpredictable, drawn out and costly. In short, it is daunting for your typical homeowner. To realise the number of homes that Wellington needs to meet the demand of our growing population, we need to change this. We are looking to develop a solution that gives landowners the power, a greater level of control upfront so that they feel encouraged and inspired to fully engage in the development our city desperately needs. By the end of this project, we want to have the foundations of a tool that homeowners will be able to use that will guide them along the journey towards building a new home.
What are you looking forward to the most during your time in Lightning Lab GovTech Accelerator?
As a team, we’re looking forward to honing our problem-solving skills, learning and doing real co-design with real end users. We also think the agile and lean methodologies we have used so far in Lighting Lab could be incorporated into the way we work normally, so we look forward to taking our new ways of working back to our day jobs. But most of all we are most looking forward to getting closer to realising more houses being built in Wellington.
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