Dwelling minimum size

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Is New Zealand’s housing crisis about lack of entry-level housing? Are parts of Hamilton’s Operative District Plan (ODP) about political distaste for entry-level housing? This post looks at rules 4.4.12 (page 27) and 4.6.4 (page 36).

I will start with the absolute minimum living conditions by referencing a Submission from the New Zealand ‘Human Rights Commission’ To: Justice Committee. Page 11‘The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture’s basic guidance requires 6m² of living space for a single-occupancy cell, and 4m² of living space per prisoner in a multiple-occupancy cell. This excludes the space for sanitary facilities. A single-occupancy cell should measure 6m² plus the space required for a sanitary annexe (usually 1m² to 2m²).’

What we do not want is living conditions worse than prison conditions. Here, NZ Treasury and Corrections reviewed Spring Hill and other prison facilities. ‘A single Cell single 7.6m2 to 8.6m2 and a double 10.6m2 – 14.7m2 (page 18). The double is close to torture, based on the European reference (6+4+1=11m2). But there is a bit more to prisons than just cells. It is important to note that “the recidivism rate is believed to be related to the success of the programmes that are implemented. It is the needs of these programmes that will determine the requirements for space and facilities in the prison design”. Page 18 of the link gives supporting measurements. The photo below is not prison accommodation; it is an illustration of ‘Space Box studio units’. Hundreds of them are being used around The Netherlands.

“The Space Box is equipped to operate as a compact house in its entirety…[it] consists of kitchen, shower and bathroom, all equipped in an area of ​​18 m2 or 22 m2”. So what justifies Hamilton’s 35m2 minimum studio size?

IKEA also offers 22m2 and 25m2 Studio examples. But back to Holland, where Delft University of Technology (ref 1) designed low-income housing for the South African government’s ‘Reconstruction and Development Programme’ (RDP). This is a 30m2  one-bedroom unit and below IKEA offers a 35m2 version. So what justifies Hamilton’s 45m2 minimum one bedroom size?

The New Zealand Initiative report: ‘Priced Out’ gives an example of what happens when there is an over-supply of entry-level dwellings (Page18) (my emphasis).

“The sale of education to foreigners after changes to the Immigration Act in 1986 saw many small high-rise units – some as small as 28 square metres – built near universities and language institutes. Auckland’s inner-city resident population increased by 500% to more than 17,000 between 1991 and 2006. At the end of 2005, The New Zealand Herald estimated that as many as 9,000 inner-city apartments had been constructed in central Auckland, some of them now empty because several language institutes were in financial trouble.”

The ODP rule on minimum floor area was not in Hamilton’s last-century Town Planning rule books; it has nothing to do with the RMA. Is it about politicians’ desires for other people to think like they do? The problem is that New Zealand does have a housing crisis because of an undersupply of entry-level housing. The outcome of limiting the supply of entry-level dwellings is that the entry-level dwellings become like prisons, where you have no choices.

Ref 1 – The Architecture annual 2001-2002, Delft University of Technology Research into possibilities of energy-saving construction. page 105-107

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One comment on “Dwelling minimum size

  1. The trick to living in high density accomodation is knowing that your other needs are also met: Are they secure? Can I hear my neighbours? What civil amenities (including parks and other green spaces) are nearby? What I like about the Space Box design as shown above is the sense of privacy and view of an immediate green space. High density living (speaking as someone who has live in UK in a towerblock) is not about the minimum meterage of living (think about the tiny house movement!), but about the standard of living that is afforded in doing so.

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