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Guest Editorial

A look outside the ‘home’ box Affordable homes – Part Two

My last editorial promoted the implementation of more shared living environments (14 November). I can’t stress enough how important it is to begin to live in more sustainable ways.
 |  Ross Liggins  | 
Sustainable Homes

An example of community-based housing is a place called Earthsong in west Auckland. It is a legal entity of 32-unit owners, designed to manage and pay for shared property in a Unit Titles situation. Residents enjoy cost savings of shared laundry, internet, common room, gardens and the like, while still maintaining private living units. Their vision is “to design, construct and maintain a co-housing neighbourhood based on a principle of permaculture, that will serve as a model of a socially and environmentally sustainable community.” Check out their website for more info.

This model is based on lifestyle choice and may be beyond the means of some first home buyers, but it suggests ideas that could no doubt be moderated to suit those on more modest incomes. Another possibility which would benefit all involved, would be to include early childhood centres and aged care facilities as part of, or in close proximity to, one of these living environments. There could develop life nurturing interaction between the young and the old.

What to do – floating structures

Thinking even further outside the proverbial box, there are myriad potential accommodation structures floating (some barely) on waterways all around New Zealand. During the 1960s and 1970s, there was a boat building boom. Many of these vessels are now reaching the end of their useful lives, being too expensive to maintain, or just plain neglected or abandoned. They are easily identified by the bird droppings and sometimes nests with baby gulls on the deck and a thick garden of marine life clinging to the unprotected hull. Owners are often difficult or impossible to trace as there is no boat registry for recreational boats. Mooring holders could say they rent their mooring to a bloke called Joe who doesn’t have a current phone number or address. Unwanted boats could be simply towed out towards Great Barrier and sunk, problem solved, and no questions asked. The boats that are registered are usually commercial vessels or those used as entertainment vessels for avoiding tax and possibly named after a female family member or given a moniker like Stormy, a name ambiguous enough to fool a suspicious wife or partner.

Of course, all these unregistered, abandoned floating time bombs are both navigational and environmental hazards costing you and I a bundle. If one were to sink in a harbour or estuary it would cost ratepayers $30,000 to refloat and dispose of it. If deemed abandoned, they are taken ashore, broken up and unusable parts are taken to the dump at a cost of between ten and twenty thousand depending on the size and location of the vessel. As a consequence, the rest of us mooring holders are being charged an extra $50 a year more to help offset these costs. The hulls may also harbour unwanted marine pests like undaria, and if not sound, could be leaking oil and diesel into the water.

So, what do we do? How can we save ratepayers money and create a win-win situation for boat owners and home buyers? Well, although many of these forlorn vessels are unsaleable and unfixable and destined for the dump, some could provide much needed land-based accommodation if re-located and given a lot of TLC, in addition to appropriate consent documents from local councils. If members of the public were given the boats free of charge, they could be transported to a section or to a block of land, place in a hole lined with drainage metal, or even on a foundation platform, connected to power, drainage, and sewerage and ‘Bob’s your uncle’ (could float in a flood too). Check out cruiserforum.com for some of the creative ways people have done this.

Boat villages rather than ticky tacky boxes

Some would say “the place would look like a gypsy caravan park if we allowed that.” But I would say firstly, “What’s wrong with a gypsy caravan park? and secondly, a boat village would be much easier on the eye than the explosion of ‘little boxes on the hillside, little boxes made of ticky-tacky,’ that are sprouting up everywhere on the edges of metropolises in New Zealand”. Larger crafts could be turned upside down (not so good in a flood), and have doors and windows cut in the side. Unusualplaces.org shows a village of upside-down boats at Equihem Plage in France. They are awesome looking and way cheaper than a kiwi house especially if placed on co-owned land. Speaking of caravan parks, why couldn’t we copy the Americans and develop what they call trailer parks, not as social housing, but perhaps with a legal structure similar to apartment blocks governed by body corporate rules.

I realise there will always be the nay-sayers or reasons not to consider these ideas, but as you can see, there are ways to alleviate our housing shortage. We just have to be willing to look outside the box.