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Read more from David Russell
It’s no secret that if New Zealand housing was a school student, its report card on accessibility and usability would read “could do better”.
However, the country is taking its first meaningful step towards addressing the issue thanks to a collaboration between Lifemark, the building sector’s equivalent to Tourism New Zealand’s Qualmark, and Housing New Zealand’s Housing Innovation Fund.
For the first time, Lifemark is working with Housing New Zealand to develop strategies that will support the growth of a housing stock designed to suit our whole population – that is people of all ages and stages.
It’s a two-pronged strategy in which Government has committed to improving its own housing stock through using Lifetime Design principles in building new homes.
Secondly, there is the Housing Innovation Fund initiative, set up to foster collaboration between Government and community organisations in order to provide more housing for New Zealanders on low to moderate incomes or with special housing needs.
What is most exciting for me is that Lifemark has been given preferential funding status by the Housing Innovation Fund. This means that housing project applications intending to be compliant with Lifemark’s 33 design and build standards, will be given more weighting in the funding criteria.
This will translate to more homes being built that are designed with everyone’s needs in mind.
These initiatives represent a clear indication that the Government sees the benefit of, and supports, our programme for better homes. And right now Housing New Zealand is advising applicants that seeking the Lifemark will aid their application for funding.
The response has been immediate and we're already receiving enquiries from a range of different organisations. Habitat for Humanity has contacted us seeking guidance on how to improve their plans to better meet their service and client needs.
So it’s evident that a cultural shift is occurring. And while transforming New Zealand’s housing stock is a long-term process, the change has started in key sectors - at Government level, at industry level and at the individual level. At this stage while Lifemark is only part of a range of criteria for funding, in the future, I would like to think it will be just part of the way we do things in New Zealand.
Lifemark’s focus now is to increase partnerships in the social services-based housing sector to ensure we are supporting all groups. We’d like to continue to build our partnership with the likes of Community Housing Aotearoa and also those organisations seeking to design houses that are affordable. And with Lifemark, we’ll be adding value to affordable homes through quality, people-focused design principles that will literally last a lifetime.
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