Homes for all (1945)

Written By: - Date published: 7:42 pm, April 23rd, 2013 - 12 comments
Categories: housing, infrastructure, labour, poverty, sustainability - Tags:

I came across this 33 minute film, Housing in New Zealand (1945) on Archives NZ’s youtube channel.  It is a film produced by Public Works Department Film unit, and graphically shows the massive building of state houses that swung into operation after the war.  It had been planned prior to the war, but was interrupted.

The aim was to end the housing problem that seemed to have existed for a long time in NZ, and to ensure that all NZ families had a home to rent or buy.  Prior to the state house project, factories had focused more on providing cars than houses.

The film is very much of its time.  The narrator sounds like an upper class Brit, and NZ is located in terms of it’s distance from England. The film starts by focusing on Pakeha NZ families.  Though later on it shows Maori and Pakeha building the houses.

There are many ways in which the project was simpler than in today’s Aotearoa.  The department pulled in as many workers and resources as necessary, with many men working double shifts. The aim was also to enable men to develop building skills on the job.  They used diverse materials – wood was there for the taking, as well as brick, asbestos (ewww!), etc; as much greenfield as needed was bought up by the government. And interesting also, that the department aimed to build better quality houses than the previous privately build ones – the profit motive had taken priority over quality.

In the 1945 film, it was interesting also to see the kind of survey done prior to the start of the project: it was colour coded, kind of like post quake Christchurch. However, there was also a colour to show which homes were overcrowded.

However, one thing that we can learn from it for today: the government looked at what was needed, then looked for practical ways to provide them.  All that’s needed is the political will!


12 comments on “Homes for all (1945)”

  1. Building houses so that everyone had somewhere to live. Those were the days …

    • Paul 1.1

      Have you seen the Spirit of ’45 by Ken Loach?
      Admittedly it’s in Britain , but there are many parallels of a welfare state born out of adversity ( the depression and World War 2 ) by people with a vision and determination to create a better world for all people in the country. Then destroyed by a greedy and selfish ideology in the 1980s.
      I sense Ken Loach made the film was made as a challenge to us today.
      Trailer here

  2. vto 2

    Imagine if home ownership rates went up significantly across the country. The economy would go nuts. Silly national party eggs – they know it but they can never bring themselves to do it. What’s the matter with them?

  3. Descendant Of Sssmith 3

    Aye my grandmother was fortunate as a sole parent in those days that someone charitably gave her and her kids a house to live in in a rural area.

    Taking in washing allowed her to buy food. As common with other poor families flour sacks etc made for everything from nappies to underwear.

    Curtains cut up for dresses and so on.

    It was always interesting that my grandmother thought that her and her kids were fortunate.

    There were other families living in the same area in white painted caves. As my grandmother oft quipped the cleanest caves you ever saw.

    At the nearby marae a widow raised herself and her kids in a tiny small shed, no bigger than a garden shed. Her and four or five children. They took turns sleeping.

    State housing gave families like these a decent roof over their head.

    Obviously I’m from a rural background and have little familial experience of how families lived in the cities but I have heard the stories of some of the slum areas, read some of the books and seen some of the photos.

    I despair at some of the boarding houses, the way some people are having to live in Christchurch, the state of lots of the rental properties. Slum like conditions are returning and this government is doing little about it.

    State housing gave the above families a decent roof over their heads where they could more easily make progress to lift their family out of poverty.

    At some point this government said they would build 2,000 state houses I believe.

    We’ve seen Key cancel the planned build of state houses in his own electorate and last I heard they had built a piddly little number of state housing. Certainly less than they had sold off.

    Rents continue to increase and these bastards are content to have poor people (both on benefit and on low wages) compete for those high rents.

    Screw them and screw Labour for it’s useless bloody housing policy as well.

    It’s quite simple up the tax rate, have Treasury issue more money and just get on and build some bloody houses.

    Lend money to councils from Treasury interest free to do the same and rebuild their housing stocks, trade brand new two bedroom units for older three and four bedroom houses to free up land – stop building new f’n subdivisions and the infrastructure that goes with it when in most cities a fair chunk of your population will die in the next twenty years.

    And yeah let people stay in them for life and let em buy em when they are in a position to do so.

    Want to take the heat out of the housing market, take to poor out of the housing market.

    Too many MP’s own rentals to look past their own interests in my view. Someone said to me the other day that Tremain has over 200 rental properties. If that’s true he’s an even bigger jerk that my father thought he was – called him Noddy cause of the way he always sat behind the PM nodding like an idiot.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.1

      Lend money to councils…

      I’m at the point where we actually allow the councils to issue money as well as central government. To the same rules of course: Issuing to be balanced by taxes.

  4. Brian 4

    We could always house the homeless in the thousands of yachts that lie, idly moored, up and down the length of the country?….
    No?… just a thought.

    • KJT 4.1

      The thousands of yachts owned by ordinary Kiwi’s, who now cannot afford to maintain them, because of wage cuts with nationals brighter future and do not have time to sail them because they are, either working 7 day weeks to make ends meet, or desperately looking for work.

      I know a few yacht owners who would be pleased to offer them as accommodation in return for maintenance.

      Unfortunately the owner of the million dollar gin palace on the next marina does not like liveaboards near his nice clean marina slip. Lowers property values doncha know. Homeless Christchurch people are not even allowed to live on board their own boat!

  5. big bruv 5

    Are these the houses that Shearer says he can build in Auckland for under $300,000 per house?

    All 100,000 of them?….ha ha

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