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Your Vote 2020: Minor parties back modular homes as part of solution to NZ's housing crisis

This election, 1 NEWS looks at the top five issues New Zealanders care about the most. This week we take a look at a potential solution to the housing crisis.

First three Modul homes at Auckland's Hobsonville Point development. Source: Supplied

Modular homes are being touted as a solution to the housing crisis, but what do they offer to buyers and where do the political parties stand on them?

One of the people promoting the modular home revolution in New Zealand is Tony Houston.

Houston started the company Modul and began a three-year process to bring modular homes from a factory in China to our shores.

He says modular homes meet the need for “affordability and scale” in the New Zealand housing market.

“What we don’t want people to do is call them container houses because they’re not, the technology is similar to a container, but these are purpose built and are much wider and longer,” Houston told 1 NEWS.

Inside one of the Modul homes at Auckland's Hobsonville Point development. Source: Supplied

The three-bedroom homes take three to four months to be built in the Chinese factory, which Houston says has the capacity to build a yearly supply of homes for the New Zealand market in just 12 weeks.

From there it’s a three-week journey by boat and the homes are then ready to be craned onto site the same day.

“We’ve already done the design and the engineering for New Zealand housing standards, they’ve just manufactured it,” Houston says of the homes, which he hopes will achieve a Homestar 6 rating.

Bedroom in one of the Modul homes at Auckland's Hobsonville Point development. Source: Supplied

Modul has no plans to offer smaller or larger homes, with Houston saying its three-bedroom offering is the most attractive for first home buyers and gives the best value for money.

The first three Modul homes are ready at Auckland’s Hobsonville Point development, with a further 22 planned there, 12 of which will be sold at $650,000 under Kāinga Ora’s Axis Series.

All the homes come with at least one car park and fittings, furnishings and appliances are included.

Bathroom inside one of the Modul homes at Auckland's Hobsonville Point development. Source: Supplied

According to Houston, a further 130 Modul homes are planned at a Mt Roskill development that will include affordable homes.

“We’ve come up with a way that we can build, we believe, half at the affordable price and to offset that we have to build more for the open market,” Houston says.

Leading minor parties have their say:

Green Party co-leader and housing spokesperson Marama Davidson told 1 NEWS her party is already promoting modular homes through Kāinga Ora.

“We want to kick start Aotearoa’s sustainable building materials industry and a key focus of this is scaling up the production of prefabricated buildings,” she says.

“New Zealand could be a world leader in the production of sustainable wooden buildings, which store carbon as opposed to the high-emissions profile of concrete.

“We’ve already seen modular buildings produced in New Zealand working well, such as those produced by XLam for Kāinga Ora developments in Ōtara, Manurewa, and Papatoetoe.”

Xlam Housing New Zealand apartments in Papatoetoe. Source: Xlam

Davidson says the Greens hope to expand their $400 million progressive home ownership scheme to help more low-income families purchase a home.

“These schemes are a crucial bridge to helping people on low incomes buy their first home, and introducing it was part of our confidence and supply agreement with Labour. In July, we announced the first providers in Queenstown and Auckland.”

ACT leader David Seymour also sees modular homes providing more opportunities for first home buyers struggling to get into the market.

“ACT has the best policy for modular homes. We would free up land to put them on, fund infrastructure to get to them, and our building consent policy means modular builders don’t have to jump through council hoops,” he told 1 NEWS.

According to Seymour ACT will:

• Replace the Resource Management Act with a law that lets people build without restrictive zoning such as the metropolitan urban limit.

• Let councils issue targeted rates to pay for infrastructure for new housing developments.

• Get councils out of the building consent and inspection business and introduce mandatory private insurance for new housing.

NZ First believes modular homes will reduce costs but wants the homes to be made by companies in New Zealand.

“New Zealand First believes in greater use of pre-fabrication to scale up housing construction efforts and to reduce costs,” an NZ First spokesperson says.

“This also applies to the increased use of modular homes, however the party would support modular housing production here in New Zealand.”

NZ First thinks the government should help keep costs downs for Kiwi modular home manufacturers.

“We believe that similar type of housing manufacturing can be achieved in New Zealand with government backing and with long term certainty for producers to achieve the greater scale of production required.

“Relying on cheaper labour overseas undermines New Zealand’s effort to improve our standard of living through minimum wage efforts.

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Winston Peters says health, housing, jobs and education for Pacific people are priorities for NZ First ahead of the election. Source: Tagata Pasifika

“Further housing build costs can be reduced at the RMA and council level – a revamping of the RMA is what is needed to support construction of housing and infrastructure in New Zealand.”

Labour and National were both approached for comment on their positions on modular housing but didn't reply.