A depressing article from one of the lucky people who already has a home in De Press this morning. Ian Burford (a building surveyor for AA House Checks) unsurprisingly decides that we need every bit of regulation we can get, to make sure that if we ever could afford a house, it would be leak free.
I can't see it online yet. He starts with a title 'Shortcuts to disaster', then:
Making new houses "affordable" and cutting council "red tape" costs in building is the new flavour of the month, but taking shortcuts can come at a heavy price
The quotation marks around "affordable" are in the original and this is surely a sign that Mr Burford thinks that affordable housing is not worth having. If poor people can afford it, then it obviously was built on the cheap.
It is ludicrous to suggest that cutting red tape is taking a shortcut. Cutting red tape is cutting red tape, getting rid of the bureaucracy which gets in the way of productive work.
It is fascinating and also disturbing to get inside the mind of a bureaucratic apologist and see how the logic breaks down. Nowhere is there any suggestion that the council is doing anything other than essential, important work. The impression given is that without the council inspections the houses would just fall down.
He even defends individual consents for each house in a subdivision on the basis that every house is different because it is in a different position. Duh. The Press has cheekily inserted a picture of a subdivision in case people haven't realised how stupid this is.
Let's recap why we let our councils issue consents at all. It is because we want them to keep records of what houses are where and provide a convenient place where future buyers can obtain information on the property. We also want to make sure that people are not encroaching on their neighbours' property rights.
We should not confuse consents with building inspections. These could be done by independent firms.
Mr Burford says:
There are many good tradespeople in the industry. However, others just don't perform to an acceptable level and are seriously lacking in building understanding
Exactly the same can be said of council inspectors. I recall during our renovation that a 20 year-old best described as a dropkick turned up and tried to tell our builder of 20 years experience that he was doing it all wrong and needed to start again. Luckily for all parties the builder ignored this, with our full support. The builder won a major national award the same year. Our house is still standing. No doubt the council dropkick has been promoted. There was no supervision from a more senior council dropkick.
Just because someone works at the council doesn't mean they have the faintest idea what they are doing. Just because someone works in the private sector doesn't mean that they are crooks. At least a hopeless builder was able to convince a punter to give him the house project. The council inspector just turns up and the punter has essentially no idea of credentials.
He finishes with
At the end of the day there are few - if any - acceptable shortcuts to building good homes
In the spirit of this I propose that:
- The council should have a clear 10 years to approve the building (so they don't make a 'mistake' in a 'hurry', you understand)
- Central government should employ overseas 'inspectors' to roam around the country checking on building sites (so that we fit with best practice internationally)
- No new building materials should be permitted unless they have been tested and used for 100 years
- The army should accompany council inspectors in military vehicles to ensure that builders do not intimidate anyone
- Neighbours with a 6km should have to agree in writing to each new building, and have adequate time to check the building quality themselves
- If the council feels that it might be 'a bit tricky' to deal with the extra traffic created by a house, then it should not be allowed
- If the new owner doesn't agree with recycling and global warming then the consent should not be given
- Any other religious or pseudo-scientific superstitions which might apply to the site should be considered (actually I think the council is ahead of me on this one)
- Gib board should not be attached for 6 months after the owners move in, so that any leaks are clearly obvious
I think anything less is just taking shortcuts.
It's no wonder our houses are so expensive. The council stops anyone building on the land, and if that fails they try to make it so expensive and painful for the builders that they all have to employ a full time person just to deal with the council, and if that fails, they demand tighter rules and start again.
We need to be very clear about our aims. Are we trying to build houses or employ a bigger council?