Policies revolutionising the state of New Zealand’s housing

January 29, 2016

Following an earlier article exploring the current context of housing in New Zealand, this article sets out some of the more successful innovative initiatives improving homes and improving quality of life.

It is often useful to consider the state of housing in other countries and the policy leavers being used to generate change. Andrew Eagles, Managing Director of Sustainable Homes, went to New Zealand in March 2015 to check up where they are up to and what is going on.

It is not all bad news

New Zealand programmes for retrofit

New Zealand Building Regulations only adopted insulation for   new homes in the 1970s

In the last blog piece I discussed the poor quality of many New Zealand Homes, in particular low levels of thermal insulation. However, there are some areas of promise. Some developers, such as Fletcher Living, New Zealand’s largest developer, is supportive of the concept of building to higher sustainable standards.

Hawkes Bay, a regional council, is taking interest in the Home star rating. A home they council built to Homestar levels sold for 10% above similar properties in the same neighbourhood. This compares with the additional build cost of 6%.

Warm up New Zealand, two programmes to provide minimal insulation levels for walls, ceilings and floors, have impacted on hundreds of thousands of homes. Some of this work was quite innovative. The following sets out the Warm up New Zealand programme and the innovative programme for mass insulation improvements.  The UK could learn from elements of this approach.

Warm up New Zealand 1 (Heat smart) – This programme ran from 2009 to 2013.  From an initial target of insulating 188,500 New Zealand homes, the programme managed to insulate 235,000.

An independent evaluation of the programme conservatively estimated a net benefit of $0.95 billion above the central government costs of £330million. Over 90% of these benefits were to attributable reduced health costs.

The greatest benefits were for people on low-incomes. The avoided health costs from insulating a house average $854 a year for Community Services Card (people in lower income) holders compared to only $336 a year for non-CSC holders.

Warm up New Zealand 2 (Healthy homes) – $100 million of operating funding over three years, targeting low-income households for home insulation, particularly households occupied by children and/or the elderly. An additional £50million will come from community organisations, trusts and iwi (Maori tribes).

 Some aspects of the New Zealand programmes very much stand out:

  1. The programmes were great at gaining other funding – Philanthropic funding was substantial. This accounted for improvements to over 54,000 homes. The warm up New Zealand programme was also very successful in gaining Department of Health support for the programme, something the UK could learn from. The Department of Health provided $100m of the funding for Warm up New Zealand 2.
  1. Programmes can revolutionize quality – Energy Efficiency Conservation Authority (EECA) carry out a quality audit, which assesses 5% of measures installed through the programme, which has reduced poor quality workmanship from being +30% of assessments at the start of the programme to less than 3%. Wow.  Awesome.  What a great progamme.  Could that be replicated in other countries?

    This transformed business processes and the quality of the end products being received by consumers. There have been no reports of damage or injury. This compares with Australia where there were frequent reports of poor workmanship and deaths from poorly installed wiring.

  1. Driving the market – products are clearly labelled as energy efficient. This is driving consumer confidence and interest. As an example the Energy Spot is a television segment that brings the energy efficiency message to the mainstream audience.

    It has been on air since 2009 and has been viewed by around 2.4 million New Zealanders, with a massive 41% saying they have taken action to reduce energy use as a result. This compares with the minor funding provided for marketing the Green Deal in the UK.

    Products for making a home more energy efficient such as energy efficient windows are receiving support from Government. These products and advice on making a home more energy efficient are marketed strongly on national television.

    Without consumers and media on board energy efficiency programmes will fail. It would be useful to check this against the UK statistics for Green Deal or Energy Company Obligation delivery.

People visited included senior officials, a number of MPs, Directors of the New Zealand Green Building Council, Directors of insulation providers and campaigners for change.  There are important lessons the countries can learn from one another.

These is a short summary of some of the initiatives going on in New Zealand. More is happening now with a new insulation programme. It is good to see and is much needed. If you have thoughts on the programmes that have lead to uptake in your country do let us know.

Daniel Navarro