• Pristine yet Problematic – NZ implementing radical overhaul of housing policies

    28 February 2018

    New Zealand’s stunning environment and far-flung location coupled with a strong-performing economy has seen it emerge as a bolt hole for the world’s wealthy elite and placed it firmly on the radar of the region’s property investors. 

    Meanwhile the nation has been struggling to house its citizens and at the tail end of 2017 has begun what will be a radical shake-up of housing policies, which could make it a test case for other nations.

    A market in need of repair

    Housing issues have been high on the agenda for many western nations since the 2008 financial crisis.  In New Zealand, property prices have increased 57% over the past decade, and Auckland has seen a surge in prices by as much as 90%. Indeed, just as Chinese property investors have targeted the country over the past ten years, New Zealand has earned a reputation as ‘a haven for the global super-rich’ according to the Financial Times (FT), with billionaires such as technology entrepreneur Peter Thiel buying up estates ‘in a country far from the world’s trouble spots’. 

    An influx of foreign home buyers, record immigration, skyrocketing rents, stagnant wages and low levels of investment in public housing created a crisis which dominated last October’s general election, resulting in a change in Government with a Labour-led coalition returning to power after nine years on the opposition benches.

    Shortly after the election, Grant Robertson, the country’s new minister for finance said, “The market for housing in New Zealand is completely broken. The price of land and building has been increasing exorbitantly while the level of building of affordable homes has dropped off enormously.”

    The chronic shortage of affordable homes is a problem mirrored across many western nations including Canada, the UK and Australia, where low interest rates have contributed to surging house prices, removing the prospect of home ownership for many on lower incomes. Shockingly, New Zealand’s rate of homelessness is now the highest amongst OECD nations.

    Architecture’s halcyon days

    Images of 603 Peninsular Road, Kelvin Heights courtesy of New Zealand Sotheby’s International Realty

    While new legislation to discourage foreign investment, such as a ban on foreigners buying existing homes, may well be in the pipeline, architectural competition is in its heyday, as masterpieces spring up across the country.

    For Megan Davies, sales associate with New Zealand Sotheby’s International Realty, the country is ripe for the picking.  Just one property on offer in her portfolio of premium lifestyle and coastal property, is a stunning, sun-drenched waterfront family home with dazzling panoramic views over Lake Wakatipu. 

    Located in the blue-chip suburb of Kelvin Heights, the property has undergone recent renovations that have resulted in a spectacular, high quality, finished product on a prized parcel of 1,493 of Queenstown’s finest square metres.  Designed by Fred Van Brandenburg, the luxurious five-bedroom property comes with everything but a cheap price tag.  With an asking price of NZ8.5 million, 603 Peninsula Road is the ultimate in family luxury.

    Four double bedrooms (with built ins), four bathrooms (three en-suites), a large office or fifth bedroom; throughout the home there are many bespoke handmade finishes and all major rooms lead out to sunny balconies, terraces and large entertaining areas.

    The ground level is appointed for effortless entertaining and is filled with natural light, high ceilings and travertine flooring. Bright, airy living spaces integrate seamlessly with the outdoors. The terrace off the modern designer gourmet kitchen and dining has a large feature open fire and full outdoor kitchen. Off the lounge is a further outdoor area for alfresco dining.

    Embraced by sunshine, the home’s inherent warmth is further augmented with double glazing, electric under-floor, an open fire and three heat pumps – providing premium heating when required. The heated swimming pool provides year round fun.

    There is an easy connection to the lake via a path through the verdant grounds where one arrives at a deep-water jetty, allowing for the owner to welcome guests arriving by boat. Just moments from the picturesque Kelvin Heights Golf Course and only a short drive to Queenstown International Airport, this magnificently situated architectural gem is indicative of the unrivalled lifestyle that New Zealand offers, for those with the means.

    Residential living for the locals

    Despite New Zealand’s growing reputation for attracting the new super-rich, winners at the 2017 New Zealand Architecture Awards held in Auckland last November, demonstrated a vast range of commercial, community and residential properties, with price tags as varied as the buildings. 

    Head of the awards jury, Louise Wright, said, “The award-winners set a high benchmark for architectural achievement in New Zealand. They demonstrate the value architects add to building projects and the benefits to clients and the wider community of well-designed, fit for purpose buildings.”

    “I think New Zealanders have increasingly high expectations of the buildings in which they live, work and study, and the cities they inhabit, and rightly so. The quality of the built environment makes a real difference to people’s lives and it is up to architects and everyone in the building industry, to make the most of every construction opportunity.”

    In the 2017 NZIA Awards, the combined categories for Housing and Houses saw the strongest competition. We present five of the shortlisted residential projects as illustration that for most of New Zealand’s homeowners, lifestyle, not ROI, is the overriding expectation with the country’s architects more capable than ever of rising to the challenge.

    The following images are supplied courtesy of New Zealand Institute of Architects.

    Matakana House – Designed by Glamuzina Architects in association with Paterson Architecture Collective

    This eponymous house is situated within the idyllic landscape of Matakana, overlooking Sugarloaf Hill to the north. Shifts between the conditions of deep and shallow, made across multiple scales of composition, manifest as steps, rises, pivots, knots, gradients and shifts in lighting throughout. Arranged as a broken courtyard, the house is defined by a deep L-shaped plan, a landscape wall and a sunken courtyard framing a pool. Two wings are split along an intersecting axis of top lit corridors that break out into an informal kitchen and dining area. In this home, every elevation has been considered. Timber battens line the exterior, providing a textured relief that accentuates the rhythm of the window arrangement. The brick walls and podium negotiate the ground, stepping in and defining porches, seating, and gardens as spaces to inhabit within the facade.


    Millbrook House, Arrowtown – Designed by Sumich Chaplin Architects

    Design codes, specifically for roof pitch, material selection and colours, are rigidly enforced at Arrowtown’s Millbrook House. Sumich Chaplin Architects sought to work with these and to explore how far the controls could be pushed. With the building platform established on two levels, the house comprises three gable forms that step down the site, linked by flat roofed stone walls. These reflect traditional forms found in New Zealand’s South Island region. Natural light is brought into the house through large dormer windows, whilst a simple palette of natural stone, plaster, slate roofing and steel plate is adopted throughout.


    Pukapuka Road House, Mahurangi – Designed by Belinda George Architects

    Pukapuka Road House is comprised of a cluster of separate buildings arranged around a central courtyard and joined with glazed walkways. Belinda George Architects have adopted a vernacular design approach to this family home, incorporating galvanized corrugated iron cladding and totara weatherboards across the exterior. Inside, walls are lined with native timbers (rimu, kahikatea, and matai) salvaged from the northland rivers, whilst the fireplace consists of a boney clay rubble and lime mixture. These carefully selected build materials and design forms reflect the simplicity of an archetypal New Zealand barn, whilst the metallic exterior retains a modern element.


    Point Wells Gables – Designed by Paterson Architecture Collective in association with Steven Lloyd Architecture and Glamuzina Architects

    Situated alongside a tributary of the Omaha River, this house derives its form from the gabled barns of its rural setting whilst simultaneously extending the architectural expression of traditional timber construction. The architects chose to celebrate the aesthetic, tectonic and weathering possibilities of raw timber by using it for all exterior cladding and interior linings. Stained cedar weatherboards on the facade begin as a narrow board and gradually double in width at the gable apex. The interior has the natural warmth of a cathedral thanks to the use of NZ Beach, mitred and spliced to form a seamless linear surface.


    Hamilton Family Home, Arrowtown – NZIA Housing (AWARD) Designed by Bull O’Sullivan Architecture

    The land upon which the Hamilton Family Home in Central Otago was built was once a historic orchard, furnishing produce for the people of Arrowtown over many decades. The rugged nature of the surroundings gives way to the build’s striking front facade, which has been likened to a crevasse in the glaciers of the Southern Alps. Following judging, designers Bull O’Sullivan Architecture have been recognised for their “understanding of the rhythms of family life and local climate” and their “democratic instinct” evident in the sensitive positioning of the house in relation to the street. 

    “The projects are various, but they have one thing in common: whether they are houses or offices or schools or churches, they are all making a real difference to the lives of the people who use them.”  Louise Wright, Jury Chair, NZIA Awards 2017        




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