building act for the homeless
Photograph by Greig Boyle
Susan Smith asks “what can we do to remove this (housing) scandal?” (Tui Motu, December 2012, p23) The answer is not complicated. If you want a house build one.
However anyone who takes this obvious step will unfortunately discover an army of bureaucrats and officials, on handsome salaries paid out of rates and taxes, waiting to prevent them from building themselves a home. Our system protects the profits of the “construction industry”, protection needed because the industry has a poor reputation having built, and continuing to build, “leaky homes”. It is an industry notable for systemic failure. Owner-builders in contrast are socially responsible, but their choices have been taken away.
Building a house is not impossibly complicated, although a sense of humour and some strategic thinking may be needed. If someone does not know how to cook they begin by learning how to boil water. With a cup of tea in hand they might then learn to poach an egg. Multi-tasking can come with a slice of toast to go with the egg. Bake your own bread with a camp-oven and an open fire if you cannot afford the bread. Admiring neighbours will add some love and manakitanga into the mix. We are lucky indeed that the government has not yet stopped us cooking our own meals to protect the profits of the “restaurant industry”.
Our political system is the scandal. We made it and we can change it. We can change the game and challenge the power structure. Passing a new Building Act which would protect the right of owner-builders, and put a roof over their families’ heads, could get the scandal out of the way.
Anyone wanting to learn a little more about owner-building might enjoy reading my book “The Human House”. Grandma can tell you how to boil water.
Tony Watkins, Karaka Bay
First published in Tui Motu, February 2013