Little boxes: 5 affordable alternatives to Auckland’s outrageous house prices

Rupal Hira
Let’s call it how it is: If you’re young, average and looking to leap into the Auckland property market, you’re pretty much screwed. In fact, forget the modifiers, if you’re not in the Auckland property market currently, but want to be, you’ve got some hard yards ahead of you.

And while some are predicting a cooling of the current feverish market, if you’re on the outside looking in, the immediate future seems pretty darn bleak.

So what’s a wannabe homeowner, hoping to put down some roots to do? Give up in despair? Become a lake-dwelling wildcard like this guy? Move to Wellsford?

There’s got to be a better way.

While the traditional housing market may have shut out the little guy for the foreseeable future, with a little creative thinking, and a dash of gumption, there just might be real-McCoy attainable options after all…  

1. Pond houses

We’ve talked about them before, but an innovative idea like this one bears repeating.

Fairway Bay, along with a couple of celebrities from appalling Kiwi building show The Block NZ, are currently creating 20 floating homes destined for Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour.

Fairway Bays development consultant Michael Webb-Speight says that the aqua-houses will be, essentially “floating apartments”.

“In an apartment building, basically you have a 35sqm cube and then you can add all types of different materials to that cube,” he says.

“We will build these little boats which will be the shells of the homes, we will control the exterior look of the shell, and then Alex and Corban [afore mentioned 2014 winners of The Block NZ] are in charge of the interior.”

The first are due to be up and bobbing in the marina by May this year, with prices yet to be confirmed.


Image via www.101palletideas.com

2. Of course you can make a house out of wood pallets

Yes, there are a milliondifferentthingsyoucanbuildoutofwoodpallets.

But a house?

Sure. Why not?

Though designed mainly for the disaster-relief market (if it’s not too vulgar to call it a ‘market’), given that wood pallets are inexpensive, sturdy and readily available, there seems no reason why the idea couldn’t be extended out to more permanent structures.

But how easy is it to actually do it?

Exactly this easy:


Image via www.babble.com

3. Love yurts

With full credit to the leaky building scandal, this country’s second most controversial dwelling of late has got to be the humble yurt.

Though a New Zealand-via-Mongolia favourite, recent yurt-related controversies include council action against one harmless yurt-loving Motueka couple (and their obligatory retaliatory protest) and the prosecution (and a guilty plea) of yurt outlaw and television presenter Miriama Kamo, for her unauthorised yurt erection.

It doesn’t have to be all dreadlocks and court dates however. With proper consent, the yurt can be a perfectly acceptable abode. Be aware however, that due to the ‘complexity’ of the request, said consent can cost anywhere from $2000 to $4000 with a 40m square yurt probably setting you back around $30k.  

Plus, with a bit of fore-thought, the results can be stunning.

4. The sexy flexi-micro home

Okay, this one's not exactly cheap, but it's awesome, so keep reading.

In 2009, eco-conscious designer Graham Hill launched a competition, challenging similarly-minded designers to outfit a tiny 39m square apartment, with everything that would be needed for two people (a lounge, office, bathroom and kitchen) as well as two guest beds, and clever enough to accommodate a full ten person dinner party.

It wasn’t just a challenge to vex his buddies, however. Hill had an axe to grind. He wanted to prove that you could create a well-designed, low-resource, environmentally-friendly apartment in New York city without having to give up a damn thing.

And he did.

The result is the hyper-functional, low-footprint LifeEdited apartment concept.

The design includes moveable walls, stackable chairs, hidden bunk beds, fold-down guest desks and plenty more genius and practical accoutrements.


Image via www.decoist.com

5. The shipping container

It’s a common refrain when the subject of property prices come up: ‘You could always live in a shipping container’.

But is there, in fact, wisdom in the idea?

Well, yes and no.

There are plenty of great reasons for creating homes out of shipping containers – they’re strong, plentiful and have a nice degree of alterna-credibility to them. On the down side however, New Zealand’s building compliance rules can make actually gaining consent for your right-angled steel-trap a lot more difficult, and considerably more expensive, than if you’d built with traditional materials.

Though councils will issue permits for designs that are up to code, no special considerations are made for your ingenuity, so the key with shipping containers is to get great advice – and a reliable designer – in the early stages.

Nevertheless, if you're willing to go very small, you can still build cheaply, and, if you can get the i’s dotted and boxes checked, shipping container dwelling can make for a pretty sexy and undeniably cool prospect too. 

Malvina Reynolds, no fan of affordable tract housing