Wednesday, January 16, 2013

How to Fix the Housing Mess

A thought experiment.... There are so many dimensions to what needs to happen that no Gumnut is gonna get them all done. It will take a crash and another generation. But a preliminary list:

  • Stop the local Gumnut racketeers. Roll them all the way back to reserve contributions in land or cash, and no other levies or new-section imposts. Because every such section-cost input, has to be paid for by householders, from a mortgage, with interest. The message is slowly getting through, but not to the bureaucrats, who quite rightly perceive that cutting off funding is cutting off their oxygen. I delight in making a submission every year, using fairly much this language, to the local Council's Draft Annual Plan, and demanding to speak to the Council in person. Does absolutely no good, but it puts a non-bureaucratic view on public record.
  • Restrict Local Gumnuts to core specified activities in infrastructire provision. They've gone hog-wild over Social and Cultural Wellbeings these last 10 years, and their costs are unsurprisingly through the roof thereby. But in Other Thasn Rates cost trees, natcherally, because we cannae have a Rates Revolt, can we. So Rates are wound back, and Other Fees and Charges reach for the sky....Release the buskers, event planners, community liaisers, cultural advisers to better employments such as factory hands (building houses of course, see below) with a massive productivity gain/deadweight decrease. But do expect some blowback.
  • Find a way to tune house-related lending: LVR's, capital ratios, whatever. Cheap credit just fuels the fire when supply is so restricted.
  • Do away with zoning. This causes massive MUL land value distortions, and as the rise in capital value is untaxed once yer local friendly Planner does the next squiggle on the map to incorporate Your bit inside the red line, better to ban map squiggles for a generation or two. As Hugh P notes, a direct result of MUL's is the rise in rural lifestyle blocks, which typically grow only ponies and thistles, and occupy far more physical area than the relaxed or abolished MUL could have ever consumed at urban density. An Unintended Consequence....
  • Yes, a Tobin Tax - stamp duty, CGT or something to increase friction in sales, would help. But results around the worls are decidely mixed, and one has to shudder at the thought of Yet Mo' Gray Suits needed to be administering the whole shebang....
  • Light a fire under ComCom re the materials duopoly, or heck just tweak the duties on said items, and import a few dozen shiploads of Chinese gib or US cabinetry, tools, fittings and doodads, and bankrupt the sods.
  • Do away with local Council planning and inspection, and use a uniform, centralised mob. The differences between jurisdictions are crazy, drive builders and engineers mad, and raise costs as common solutions cannot easily be created, disseminated and used.
  • Factory-build houses and drop-ship them to sites. Only foundations ever need to be truely localised to site and circumstance. Once you have a platform anything on top should be assembled in QC-controlled spaces, by anyone but drug-addled hammer hands, and picked/packed/shipped/assembled by factory certified putter uppers. This will drive unit costs through the floor, and will cause a great winnowing of the Exterior Decoration crew - architects and designers - into more productive employment. Factory hands, what else. Win/win/win/win, I'd say.
  • Wind back the LBP nonsense (the factory certification should cover all competencies) because it's an overreaction and an overhead and has driven many older craftsmen right out of the business.
  • Mandate eaves, pitched roofs, external guttering, and a design ethos which allows easy access to plumbing and electrics for repairs via access panels, conduits, etc. Lack of these features causes unmaintainability, lack of watertightness, and other woes. The guidebook here is Stewart Brand 'How Buildings Learn (what happens after they're built)'. Exceptions can be permitted only under a notified resource consent process (make the buggers really suffer....)
  • Institute a central photo database of every new build showing the as-built location of services (wiring, pipes, etc) before walls or foundations are skinned over. Index photos to site/floor plan and elevations. Huge help in later additions, maintenance etc. Keep this as-built record up to date (yes, I know, counsel of perfection....)

Not one of these is politically possible, can withstand the deadweight of custom, guilds, unions and convention, or can be defended against the Legal eagles of said duopolies and assorted corporate interests. But it was a fun thought experiment, hey?

No comments: