Why can’t we have Kiwibuild Trailer parks?

Now before you scoff, please be advised that I am quite serious here. I like a good mobile home.

Your minister for building houses that no-one wants, Phil Twyford, is bending over backwards to get people into affordable homes. But for some reason, he and his minions have come up with a plan to only build (or buy) houses that are either ridiculously overpriced for what they are or are in the wrong place.

I would never let my kids buy a home in Marfell, let alone one that is at least one hundred grand dearer than other stuff that is on the market in the same area. They sure as eggs don’t have the kind of income to purchase one in Auckland or Wanaka.

So how about this for an idea? Let’s build some Kiwibuild Mobile home parks.

Now I am not talking about the My Name is Earl kind of Trailer park inhabited by skinny white Trailer trash who sit around drinking Cody’s all day, I’m talking about an upmarket Holiday park type community where your government could actually assist young people into the housing market, you know, like they promised Kiwibuild would do.

What got me thinking about this was something I saw in Kaikoura last month as I was passing through. I stayed at the local Top 10 Holiday park in one of their two-bedroom cabins and thought to myself, ‘why are we not helping our young-uns into this sort of thing’?

The cabin was small, had a usable kitchen, a perfectly adequate bathroom and a big enough lounge to relax in after a long drive. It was, in short, exactly the type of accommodation that could fix our housing ‘crisis’.

But what piqued my interest, even more, was what was situated beside the Holiday Park, the Kaikoura Housing Recovery Village.

Kaikoura Housing Recovery Village

This great wee initiative was obviously set up after the Kaikoura earthquake as a means of housing people who had lost their homes. These are basically portacoms, 40-foot container sized portable buildings that have been placed on a narrow strip of land between the main road and the waterfront. Council owned I would imagine. To my mind, this is exactly what is needed for the emergency housing of people in need. Two bedrooms, a kitchen, lounge and bathroom with parking and a fenced yard. Quite why the various governments of late feel it is better to house people in motels at great cost is beyond me.

Kaikoura Housing Recovery Village cabins

So let’s take this a step further. Why can we not have the government purchase suitable land, probably on the outskirts of towns, then set up some really nice, well presented holiday park type communities where people could live after purchasing their own mobile home?

Buyers would need to fund the purchase of the relocatable home, which would generally be below $200,000 and would be required to pay a very small nominal lease for the land that the home sits on, similar to a body corp fee essentially as a means to fund the common facilities.

They wouldn’t look like the Kaikoura Village as that is only emergency housing, but they could be quite a desirable place to live if done correctly. The main criteria would be having a little space that you could call your own, a fenced yard, parking, lots of lovely trees, a park and playground for the little ones, and a community space for everyone that could include the likes of a hall, games room, gym or even a pool.

My thoughts would be to have these communities only available to purchasers. So no renters. Sure, a building owner could have flatmates etc but there could be a condition of purchasing put in that made sure there were to be no tenants. This would keep the community full of like-minded, probably younger folk, who would all have the important incentive of keeping the place nice, as they are owners of their asset, and the ‘evil’ property investor would be shut out. After all, this is about home ownership not creating rentals.

Higher spec trailer parks, or manufactured home communities as they are now called, are popping up all over the place in the USA and UK. There really is no reason why this couldn’t work in New Zealand, particularly as the government would be effectively using their two billion dollar Kiwibuild slush fund to purchase the required land. They would then be only buying and producing an appreciating asset, not subsidising the actual building costs. They could also look at shared equity schemes to enable even the much lower income folks, retirees etc to get in on the game.

Purchasers of the buildings could then either sell up at whatever the market rate is at the time if they wanted to move up and on, (with no capital gains tax as it is effectively just a trailer) or they could pick their own home up and transport it to a newly purchased section once they were able to afford that. The land under the home would then be freed up for the next person in line and the cycle would continue, helping young people and first home buyers into the market.

Modern modular home villages can easily be made to look like a regular suburb

The array of new relocatable homes on the market now is pretty amazing. A quick internet check shows plenty of options already available in New Zealand, and some of them are pretty funky. There are certainly options that I would have loved to live in when I was young and starting out. They certainly fit the warm and healthy mantra and of course, all meet the required housing regulations.

The Ipad, from Architex NZ, www.architex.co.nz

So come on Mr Twyford, how about looking outside the square a little? There are plenty of other options out there other than just buying little expensive townhouses off developers.

Let’s start actually looking at something that could help you reach your stated goals, and help actual normal people, not just doctors and high-income earners, get into their own home.