The concept of affordable housing has changed significantly since the uniform state houses of the 1950s and ‘60s.

These days, many social houses are deliberately indistinguishable from their KiwiBuild scheme counterparts, which are aimed at helping first home-buyers into a challenging housing market.

We sat down with some of the people behind award-winning developments to talk about why an affordable and appealing home doesn’t have to be a pipe dream.

Kōtuitui in Manukau, Auckland

The Kōtuitui neighbourhood, by Avant Group(external link) and Te Ākitai Waioha in Manukau, Auckland scooped a win at last week’s nationwide Property Industry Awards.

It was one of 11 nominees in the Homes and Communities Community and Affordable Housing Property category.

“I’m stoked for the team,” said Avant Group director and development manager, Mat Peters​.

“The mantra for us was, first home-buyers are not looking for a cheap home. They’ve got a budget, and are looking for a first-home investment.”

The brand-new neighbourhood of more than 100 homes is located just 500m from the Manukau city centre.


The Kōtuitui neighbourhood, by Avant Group and Te Ākitai Waioha in Manukau, Auckland scooped the Homes and Communities Community and Affordable Housing Property Award at last week’s nationwide Property Industry Awards.

Property Council New Zealand said it had been a “huge success” for all parties involved. Of the homes, 61 were sold in advance of their completion in December 2020, and 36 of those were KiwiBuild.

Half were priced for sale below $600,000 (the Auckland median house price was $1.25m in October, according to REINZ). Nearly all were placed below $700,000 – the price cap Auckland first home-buyers(external link) must fall under to access to their KiwiSaver.

“Kōtuitui is a neighbourhood of architecturally-designed two and three-bedroom homes in a master planned scheme that has proven to be extremely popular,” the judges said.


The homes are designed for modern living – with generous entertaining courtyards and room for growing families.



Each place has been built with quality fixtures including whiteware, plus a selection of interior finishes and optional extras.

Their features include courtyards, generously-proportioned kitchens, engineered stone bench tops, undermount sinks, and quality fittings complete with an extensive list of appliances.


The Kōtuitui Terraces have been designed and constructed to achieve Homestar 6.

“Often when developers are making houses affordable, they strip things out,” said Peters. “We managed to put them in, like heaters in every room.”

The terraced houses have been designed and constructed to achieve a Homestar 6(external link) rating, the Property Council judges said, “with landscaped private grounds that extend out to the streetscape and pocket park, places for children to play and ample parking for residents and visitors.”


“The layout of the homes emphasises the importance of clever and efficient space management,” the judges said.

“Kōtuitui’s architectural design and distinctive use of hard-wearing materials is a fresh new urban look and feel for downtown Manukau City.”

“We’re really proud,” said Peters. “If you find areas that are a little depressed and in need of a lift, and you build not just decent houses, but decent neighbourhoods, they will get that lift.”


Tāmaki Regeneration Company (TRC) Fenchurch Street development, a 170-hectare (TRC land) area bounded by Tāmaki College on one side and Glenbrae School on the other. This development is a mix of affordable, public (state) and private housing. The closest house pictured is an affordable home.

The changing face of social housing

The ‘one size fits all' standalone state house approach is now outdated.

Today, it's called social housing, and the state-owned houses are mixed in with privately-owned properties, making it impossible to tell which is a social house and which is in private ownership.

That was a deliberate move by Tāmaki Regeneration Company (TRC) to remove the stigma traditionally attached to social housing, said CEO Shelley Katae.(external link)

In the past four years, TRC has built 900 new homes in Glen Innes, Pt England and Panmure, and helped at least 100 whānau into affordable homeownership.


Rachel and her four children moved into a brand new four-bedroom, two-storey townhouse in Glen Innes that's warm, dry and comfortable. Originally published in 2017.

“We need to support our whānau to achieve their aspirations,” said Katae. “Yes, we’re building homes – but the goal is supporting an equity shift within the Tāmaki community.”


The galley-style kitchen has an island, which can be used for food prep, serving and casual dining. Originally published in 2017.

The new one- to five-bedroom homes are built to a Homestar 6 rating, and design is influenced by future homeowners and what’s important to Māori whānau. That means play areas for children, places where parents can supervise, space for shoes to be taken off outside the front door, and not placing a toilet next to the kitchen.


As with all the new houses commissioned by Tāmaki Rengeration Company, Rachel's house features a landscaped front garden that is open to the street to encourage community interaction. Originally published in 2017.

TRC is providing access to homeownership “right across the housing continuum,” said Katae. Under a shared homeownership programme, they build the home, mentor whānau through a three- to four-year process, and split the sale price.

On an $800,000 house, the whānau might pay a deposit on $600,000, and TRC retains ownership of the remaining $200,000. They also won’t have to service as big a mortgage.


The spacious open-plan living area is light-filled and airy. Originally published in 2017.


Rachel's three older children can have a room each, although the girls have chosen to share. The baby is currently in a cot in the master bedroom. Originally published in 2017.

“They can pay the remainder off over 15 years,” said Katae. This is subject to capital gains, so if the house goes up to $900K in value, what TRC owns is proportionate.

“We still get payment back for the total house, but we’re quite different to the private sector. It’s not on day one.”

TRC also provides social housing (20 per cent), build-to-rent, rent-to-own and affordable first homes, said Katae.

“I personally believe affordable housing in this country is not a pipe dream.”

READ MORE(external link)

Wilkes, M (2021, November). 'Affordable housing is not a pipe dream': How some developers are making a difference. Stuff.co.nz.

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