Researchers urge New Zealand to think outside the box on housing for sustainable future
New Zealand urgently needs to increase the diversity and quality of its housing stock if it is to achieve its goal of reducing the country’s carbon emissions by 2030 and meeting the needs of our diverse population, say researchers from the University of Otago.
The researchers, whose work has been published in the international scientific journal Well-being, Space and Society, say that significant sustainability and well-being benefits are associated with well-designed, compact housing projects with communal or public areas and close to public transport.
Lead author, research associate Dr. Crystal Olin, of the University of Otago, Wellington, says such developments provide an often-missing middle option between low-density single-family homes and high-density downtown apartments.
“Buildings and transportation together account for half of our CO2 use, and a shift to a focus on medium-density homes would deliver multiple benefits, increasing the amount of energy used to heat homes, and promoting cycling and walking instead. of driving.
“Aotearoa urban dwellers increasingly prefer to live in more compact cities that reduce travel times to work, school and amenities, and encourage active forms of travel such as walking, cycling and using public transport, as well as keep housing and transport more affordable.”
dr. Olin says she supports the government’s goal of shifting emphasis from self-contained family homes to developing more inclusive, collective and urban living spaces, as set out in its 2021 Housing and Urban Development Policy Statement, but says it has to go. further if the future of Aotearoa is really to be transformed.
“The government should commit to increasing the supply and diversity of high-quality medium-density housing, with an emphasis on multi-generational shared housing, co-housing developments, where private housing is clustered around shared spaces, and papakāinga on Māori -country.”
dr. Olin says conventional development approaches that focus on detached homes for nuclear families and small, densely packed apartments that lack communal areas or accessibility to public spaces and public transportation not only limit sustainability outcomes but also reduce opportunities for community and neighbor connections.
In contrast, co-housing, collective or collaborative housing models are designed with the specific purpose of enabling connection to the community. Housing developments can support social connection with others by creating shared pathways in row houses, or shared access lobbies in medium-density housing. communal areas, such as communal dining rooms, laundries, outdoor spaces and pocket playgrounds, all increase the potential for social connections.”
Fellow researcher, Dr. James Berghan (Te Rarawa, Te Aupōuri), a lecturer in the university’s School of Surveying, says Māori collective housing models can also help build and facilitate cultural connections.
“Papakāinga located on ancestral lands can help whānau connect (and reconnect) with the wider cultural landscape simply by being on their ancestors’ whenua (land) or by having visible sightlines to important landmarks such as maunga (mountains).”
dr. Berghan says that despite compelling evidence of the benefits of papakāinga and other collective housing models, a series of barriers still stand in the way.
“They include legal issues with land tenure, outdated or homogeneous district plans and associated lengthy resource consent processes, and risk-averse financial institutions that prefer ‘normal’ commercial developments.
“Residents, developers, planners and local and central governments have different views on changing housing models, so the shift to more complex, more sustainable cities is often a complicated, contentious and uneven process.”
dr. Berghan says the barriers are not insurmountable if local and central governments are committed to change.
“Local governments can act to reduce barriers to sustainable development by hapū and iwi by ensuring that planning rules treat kāinga or cluster housing as ‘normal’ forms of development, and central government can spur change by normalizing collective housing models.
“This will help Aotearoa shift towards a more complex, sustainable urban future with a thriving diversity of home spaces.”
Crystal Victoria Olin et al, Inclusive and Collective Urban Home Spaces: The Future of Housing in Aotearoa, New Zealand, Well-being, space and society (2022). DOI: 10.116/j.wss.2022.100080
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