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Cruising into Affordable Homes

Co-living solutions could have us all Cruising into Affordable Homes

…The definition to cruise… can mean to ‘do something well or effortlessly’…  planes fly at a cruising speed… or to drive, ride or walk slowly through a place with or without purpose… is to cruise… they cruised up and down the coast road.  or my favorite is … to do something well or successfully or with relative ease, without too much effort is to cruise …through school, life… So why not cruise into homes… do it well… and effortlessly.

Anyone else think this apartment somewhat resembles a cruise ship?

This particular building is Quayside Luxuray Apartments in Whakatane. My husband and I recently cruised to Whakatane for an outing, it had been years since either of us had been there despite it only being 40 min drive from our home. My memories of Whakatane was a dirty old town, on the banks of a dirty old river-mouth, full of poverty, miles from anywhere and the gateway to the East Cape. We discovered this sleepy town, has actually transformed into a real beauty. Packed full of eclectic cosmopolitan vibe, lovely mixture of dining & shopping choices, positive social service images throughout town, and multiple high density apartments. In the section of town we walked – not one $2 dollar or similar shop!… take note Te Puke !

I love the look of this building, While it is not co-housing, we could build something like it, and create an intentional co-living co-working environment that could resemble a cruise ship. It could meet housing needs for a great number of people and do so ‘affordably’, available for rental, shared equity, full ownership options and social housing.

What has cruising got to do with housing? For many, cruise holidays are considered luxury and out of reach. Equally quality housing is now a luxury and is ‘out of reach’ for many of us. Affordable homes in New Zealand is now considered $400 – $450K, is hardly affordable when most are unable to find a deposit of $80 – $100K.

Lets do the math – median incomes in per person is about $26 – 27 K per year in our region, Western Bay of Plenty. The ‘affordable purchase price’ for a home based on that income would be about $220,000. If rent was say 40% of income that would be $350 per week if the household could save 10% toward deposit it would take about 6.5 years to save enough deposit to purchase their home if they could find one for $220,000. Therefore at least two incomes are needed to purchase a home in the $400 – $450 K price range. There is a growing trend for people to pool their resources to purchase property together.

What if we could reduce home purchasing cost to say $150 – $450 K? I believe this could be achievable –  by sharing the resources we have and  by adopting co-housing solutions I believe we could offer a variety of homes for say $150 – $450K.

Many people (myself included) find cruise holidays to be one of the most ‘affordable’ holiday choices for families and other multi-generational or interest groups.  Made more affordable because of the collective purchasing power, the all inclusive pricing system and shared use of social spaces. This article will explore the ideas around adopting more cost-effective strategies and how trends towards sharing economies, sharing of spaces, can provide more sustainable and affordable ways to provide ‘affordable housing choices’  for all in New Zealand

Still in it’s infancy, the Sharing Economy is a socio-economic ecosystem built around the sharing of human, physical and intellectual resources. It includes the shared creation, production, distribution, re-distribution, trade and consumption of goods and services by different people and organisations.

The sharing of spaces; sharing of skills, resources and movements towards minimization and going ‘tiny’ is gaining momentum throughout New Zealand.

Plans for ‘tiny villages’ to solve homelessness in Te Puke is well underway. In fact, Western Bay of Plenty Council released a (glowing) opinion in their discussion paper on Tiny Houses publish in August 2017.  “In a period of extreme housing un-affordability and increasing poverty because of it, Council (WBDC) should consider leading New Zealand in enabling Tiny House Villages in the Western Bay as one solution to affordable housing.”

The ‘Freedom Lifestyle Villages’ unique model in Papamoa for over 40’s claim to offer residents a more affordable and fairer deal. Residents can purchase a small 40 – 60 m2 homes, pay ground lease and community contribution for shared facilities and resources. This creates more affordable solution and suits those who are on permanent holidays due to early retirement, disablement, or other lifestyle choices.

Fueled by multiple reasons including, fears and frustrations around housing un-affordability. Our aging population who search for security in a home we can maintain and sustain. Many people especially baby boomers and others who struggle with work / life balance are searching for both work and housing / living solutions that suit their lifestyle needs. In New Zealand, the 65+ population is expected to increase by 61% by 2026, and the population of the Western Bay of Plenty is aging faster than any other regions in New Zealand.

There is demand for co-shared spaces and a groundswell in New Zealand (and around the world) for both work & leisure spaces. Leisure cruising, for example has seen a record 90,184 New Zealanders sail on ocean cruises last year, a 36 per cent leap on the previous 12 months. I took my first cruise ship holiday in 2008 and since have been on about 10 cruise holidays taking my 5 children, elderly Mum, extended family and friends on some. This picture here is of 2 of my daughters, my 18 year old went online and found a another person interested to ‘co-share’ a cabin for about a thousand dollars for a 10 night cruise so she could join our family on this particular cruise. All of my 5 children are now avid young cruisers ages 9 – 27 years. There is a wildly held assumption that ‘cruising’ is for older people 60 years and above. However the global trend, of cruise passengers continues to decrease, with the average age of first time cruising guests being under 40, the lowest age seen in over 20 years. According to a recent survey reported by the CLIA, “rising interest from millennial and generation X travelers, now rate cruise travel as better than land-based vacations, all-inclusive resorts, tours, vacation house rentals, or even camping.” 

Millennials already know the answer to housing affordability and loneliness

Leading this co-living demand is the rising interest from millennial and generation X travelers who are opting for more nomadic lifestyles, and a desire to not be weighed down with burdens of  taking care of stuff including properties. There is a consensus that we are better and stronger together. There is a sense of loneliness and a craving for the sense of comfort, safety, security, and belonging that is achieved by creating co-living communities. The notion of achieving more – for more people – more affordably  – enhanced outcomes – while reducing stress – it just makes sense!

Co-working spaces, are an attractive option for all ages; work at home professionals, freelancers, independent contractors, or people who travel frequently and connect to work via the internet. Co-working environments offer social gathering for groups of people with diverse skills and resources, and a willingness to share, such collaborative communities, have been growing for the last few years. In 2010 there were fewer than 750 worldwide, now in 2017 that number has grown to in excess of 12,000.

Many people are adopting innovative solutions; downsizing, undergoing cost-restructuring, leaving the corporate world to ‘go-it-alone’ creating connected, collaborative business landscapes throughout the world. According to Venture Centre’s Pascale Hyboud-Peron, co-working has become an important component of this connected and collaborative business landscape in towns and cities across New Zealand.” Tauranga’s Venture Centre launched a New Zealand first event in the coworking space, the CoWork Hui, in October 2016.  Bay of Plenty Co-working spaces include:  Basestation • Ignition • Studio64 • 64 Bit • Platform • Momentum • The Incubator • The Junction • Firestation

The newest, when completed The Kollective will be the largest co-working space in the country.  Specifically  designed to offer an administrative base for 30 – 40 charitable, social enterprise and not-for-profit organisations. Developed by TECT as a social investment, the co-working space is to be managed daily by SociaLink Tauranga Moana, an organisation providing support to the social service sector.

The vision for The Kollective as a community hub is to create an environment which increases the capability and effectiveness of community organisations to provide better community outcomes through better collaboration, communication and sharing of best practice. Shared environments focus on Space – Support – Shared Outcomes.

These goals intend to ‘multiply the opportunities and to divide the costs’ thereby making for considerably more affordable outcome.

The Kollective offers a leap into to co-working world for Western Bay of Plenty community service organisations, and provides the same opportunity to reduce overlap, increase service efficiency and to collaborate with like minds for mutual benefit, according to TECT general manager Wayne Werder. In saying that, Housing still remains the greatest challenge for Western Bay of Plenty‘s social services. What can we do?

I propose to adopt the similar principles, and create this country’s largest co-living community housing project on a site in Te Puke. This community could provide affordable and sustainable homes and economic opportunities for well over 50 households. This is an elevated site on the corner of No 1 Road and Te Puke Highway 750 m from Te Puke CBD. We could incorporate shared wellness zones relaxing child-free and more active splashdown zones for all ages.

Located directly opposite Lawrence Oliver Park, the Old Te Puke Cemetery and the new Te Ara Kahikatea pathway with another walkway and cycleway linking Te Puke to Maketu is planned by the Te Ara Kahikatea Society – Why in Te Puke? – this is where a lot is happening – awe have a strong resilient collaborative community who committed to creating a visionary future to be our living legacy. We have so much going on here, new business growth and developments with Mitre 10, Plunket, Vector Group for youth, The Daily social enterprise cafe, The Mens Shed, EmpowermentNZ the list goes on.

Imagine what we could achieve if other neighboring property owners are interested in collaborating as well. We need to maximize the available land we have. The population is expected to double within 45 years in the area controlled by Western Bay of Plenty District Council. Twelve valuable kiwifruit orchards, totaling 70ha, on the eastern side of No 3 Rd between MacLoughlin Drive and Whitehead Avenue in Te Puke, are already targeted for residential development. While another six orchards further south off No 2 Rd and around Dudley Vercoe Drive face extinction due to this residential sprawl.

SmartGrowth project manager Ken Tremaine, was appalled (in 2005) by urban sprawl developments encroachment into profitable kiwifruit land. “It’s not the intention of SmartGrowth to take away rural land unless there is a very good reason for it. “We have made a contract with the communities to accommodate the growth within existing urban footprints.” Mr Tremaine said the loss of kiwifruit land was a loss of income for the region.

The SmartGrowth Strategy 2013 has a vision for the Western Bay to be a great place to live, learn, work and play. The purpose of the Strategy is to provide a unified vision, direction and voice for the future of the western Bay. The SmartGrowth Strategy is supported by five pillars:  1. Partnership, 2. Collaborative leadership, 3. Integration, 4. Evidence-based, 5. Live, work, learn and play approach

The western Bay of Plenty sub-region has been an area of strong population growth for some time. The following are some key points to note from the demographic work completed for the SmartGrowth Partnership

• The WBDCi s expecting an additional 47,486 people over the 17 years to 2030, population projected to reach 256,460 by 2063.
• Strong growth in the number of couples without children is projected  Single person households show particularly strong growth.
• The Tauranga Urban Area including Western Bay is the second fastest urban growth area. By 2033 33% of this regions population will be aged 65+ years.

Te Puke is Western Bay’s newest Boom Town 7 Dec, 2017, Rochelle Carter from Ray White Te Puke as reported recently, in the NZ Herald says the town was being recognized as a growth area, attracting families keen on the local schooling and businesses transferring to the area. “First-home buyers find they can purchase an 800sq m section with a three-bedroom house for mid-$400,000s. Supply and demand has pushed the prices up, plus prior to the LVR restrictions were enforced we had a good percentage of properties selling as investments,” she said.

“Buyers were now recognizing Te Puke as an area of choice to live now, Te Puke is recognized with; good schooling, transport options, plus areas of strong business growth offering jobs and generally more opportunities.”

Carter said in the past year there had been many businesses transferring the premises to the Te Puke area, offering more local job opportunities and the town had experienced roading and beautification projects. Carter believes the Te Puke market had stabilized after “such huge increases”.

Housing Affordability, Rising rental prices and a desire to downsize has lead to an increase in value for Bay of Plenty’s smaller homes, industry experts say. According to latest Trade Me average asking price for one and two-bedroom homes in Tauranga increased 11.9 per cent, rising from $462,900 in October 2016 to $518,000 in October 2017. Prices for small homes in Western Bay of Plenty rose 11.6 per cent, from $485,950 in October 2016 to $542,500 last month.  The number of houses sold in the Western Bay of Plenty in October has dropped by half compared to the same time last year, likely caused by a reduction or lack of houses available for sale.

Is co-living an acceptable and affordable solution can we embrace this growing trend for shard living spaces in Western Bay of Plenty?

Could Te Puke be next to opt for co-living housing? Many people already are embracing co-living arrangements, be it out of necessity – not choice. Sadly housing overcrowding is rife throughout the Bay of Plenty. One builder Shared Living Solutions in Tauranga, is offering intentional co-living housing plans intended for 2 households to share common areas within a house. There are a few traditional developers trying to build affordable homes within traditional frameworks, but most are falling short of the ‘affordable’ price targets. Why? Because their profits come before purpose.

We need to close the gaps that exist between rich and poor to make homes affordable for all, buy adopting innovative shared equity arrangements, and ensure that Profits are for Purpose.

I believe we can build healthy sustainable homes for people. We can create, more higher density connected communities,  be proactive and overcome these housing un-affordability issues.

My most recent cruise was from Singapore. An observation I found while in Singapore was the use of high density housing, coupled with the use of co-shared work, living and revenue producing spaces like incorporating short stay accommodations and hotels within residential complexes. Some even offer co-operative shared revenue potentials, and pop-up business enterprises with residents. I discovered that about 80% of the population live in high density housing, and that 90 % of occupants actually own the homes they live in. Many are created to incorporate co-living, co-working and co-leisure spaces. Design plans incorporate green spaces, hotels, cafes, retail, bars, restaurants, educational, sports and fitness and other small business activities. High density constructions can be beautiful like this one called the ‘Interlace’ by Ole Scheeren.

Not all co-living environments are in cities. One of my other previous holidays was to a tiny island called Koh Lanta in Thailand, I have since discovered they too offer a co-work / co-living housing solution called KoHub, they have a strong social impact focus as well.

All co-living arrangements throughout south-east Asia, include a place to sleep, two meals a day, free access to beach toys, travel advice/assistance. Plus world-class facilities, effortless and affordable all inclusive packages at KoHub co-working space.

Closer to home, Nightingales, is a social enterprise model provide ‘affordable’ high density multi level social housing projects in Australia and are showing fantastic results. “Better, cheaper apartments in Melbourne might provide New Zealand with a model” Will Harvie reports in his article “Architects as ethical developers”

Our cities (and towns) and their inhabitants deserve beautiful, well-built and well-sized homes designed for real life, “reads the Nightingale website. “At present the market is not delivering this and as long as the current formula remains profitable, there is no incentive to raise the bar on the status quo.” The Nightingale social enterprise model starts with about 20 ethical investors. Some of these are architects – mid-career designers who can manage a $1000,000 investment, says Legge – but others are sophisticated investors who lean toward doing good with their money. They found their model works well with “European mode” buildings around five stories high and 20 – 30 units.

Purchasers must also participate in Nightingale’s financial model. They’re getting well designed apartments at low cost, they sign contracts that forbid flipping for a quick buck. Owners must sell to people on the database and they get only the original purchase price, the value of any improvements plus a bump calculated from indexed apartment price rises from the surrounding neighborhood. “There’s no windfall for the first seller.” James Legge spoke at Green Building Council’s Sustainable Housing Summit in June 2017 at Auckland and Christchurch. The beauty in this model is in engaging people in the process of design, by passing some of the underlying costs by combining functions, and limiting the way apartments can be on sold to avoid speculation

Co-living environments provide a greater sense of well-being and many other health benefits. People “are all much stronger and happier when we are together”, according to Adam Neumann, one of the most successful entrepreneurs of the moment. Neumann is co-founder of WeWork, the wildly successful American co-working hub brand which by end 2016 was present in more than 110 locations around the world, including Hong Kong. The company’s notion of togetherness was also expanded last year to incorporate co-living spaces, branded as WeLive, where residents have their choice of small; studio, 1 bed, 2 bed, 3 bed or even 4 bed units to themselves while sharing a communal Chefs kitchen, other shared spaces and laundry.

Student-style accommodation for adults “is going to be the next market” and could help solve London’s housing crisis and regenerate urban centers around the country. Interior designer and TV presenter Naomi Cleaver believes, “It’s between student accommodation and a hotel.” Cleaver has designed numerous student accommodation projects including iQ Shoreditch in London, “It solves a number of problems. It’s safe and well-designed accommodation at an affordable price, but for rent rather than purchase for people who are unable to buy their own property.”

“Preventing urban sprawl through housing developments should be a priority. Mixed land use buildings within the urban zones would improve housing and accessibility to amenities” – Fitting the pieces together 2015 WBOP Vital Signs – Acorn Foundation

Co-housing is not common in New Zealand and often, does not easily fit the usual planning rules. Apparently a number of strategic and organisational processes established by the Western Bay of Plenty sub-region, suggest that it is well placed to explore the potential demand and opportunities for the supply of cohousing.

While much of the reports thus far has been in response, as an option for affordable senior housing, I would suggest that it is equally an option for all people including families, young and old alike. Although the aging trend projects that by 2050 locally 75% in Western Bay of Plenty will be over 65. It is therefore imperative that we optimize age-friendly environments so we can maximize the social and economic benefits moving forward.

Those factors include: The 2013 update of the SmartGrowth spatial plan identifies a number of issues and focus areas where analysis of the potential of cohousing could contribute to SmartGrowth objectives.

Of the three growth scenario alternatives that were evaluated the high-density alternative ranked the strongest. The report also suggested that more active involvement and leadership by SmartGrowth Partners would better enable community led initiatives, with potential joint venture arrangements. This could deliver more affordable compact urban intensification projects that best meet diverse housing needs while designing more livable communities, planed and connected social infrastructure, while managing impacts of housing conditions on health.

SmartGrowth’s strategy partners, and two forums in particular, PATAG and Housing Affordability, provide a platform for investigation, analysis and advice about affordable housing options and infrastructure.

An existing model of inter-sectoral cooperation to support the development of papakainga housing – the Joint Agency Group – could be used as a template for establishing other inter-sectoral planning mechanisms for communal housing initiatives.

Those structures and processes in the Western Bay of Plenty sub-region also provide a vehicle for other forms of collective-based housing options.

Inspired by other leaders in the field I quote. Every $1 invested in Habitat for Humanity yields about $4 in societal benefits, including improved employment and education opportunities and a decreased burden on social programming. For more information on how Habitat for Humanity’s business model helps low income families into affordable home ownership, welcome to check the Boston Consulting Group’s 2015 report: Transforming Lives: The Social Return on Habitat’s Work in Canada.


Potential Survey Questions???

What do you think about the proposal to create an affordable sustainable co-living community housing project?

• Do you think the identified site in Te Puke the right place for an affordable sustainable co-living community project – why / why not?

• What would you like to be considered when final decisions are discussed?

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