Why aren’t houses like cars?

This could be part of the solution to housing affordability:

In the 1970s the GM factory in Trentham turned out old-school Vivas and Chevettes. Today it was re-opened by the Hon Bill English with a role better suited to the 21st century – building homes.

Matrix Homes was established last year by Wellington entrepreneur Sean Murrie and architect Graeme Farr to produce quality affordable homes for two thirds the cost of traditional building methods.

Matrix Homes’ managing director Sean Murrie said, “Matrix Homes came about from our belief that New Zealanders pay millions more than they should for housing due to inefficient practices and markets.

“Our mission is to put that right by redesigning the build process. We set out to drastically reduce the cost of a new home without sacrificing the quality you expect in what is most people’s largest investment. By re-engineering the whole build process from the ground up, Matrix have made a quantum leap forward in affordability and quality.”

Matrix Homes are not built on-site but under cover in the Trentham factory. This enables work to continue irrespective of the weather. The cost-savings are achieved through greater efficiencies: economy of scale in sourcing building materials, standardised modular construction and no down time.

“Traditional ‘affordable’ housing focuses on reducing the cost of materials and results in a home that forever looks cheap. Matrix is a proper wood-framed house with timber weatherboards, cedar cladding is an option, Gib lined and with a galvanized iron roof. So far we’ve designed dozens of Matrix configurations for the three standard modules.

A range of sustainable options are also available including a full off-grid package including solar hot water heating and a self-contained wastewater system,” Sean Murrie said.

“With Matrix you get factory quality control and eliminate ad hoc on-site improvisation. Our design incorporates standardised window sizes enabling phenomenal savings. Assembling floors and walls on pre-built jigs has virtually eliminated the tape measure – the biggest single source of time and material wastage. Materials are pre-cut and perfect with each component optimised and identical.

“More often than not, your new home will be completed by the time you have planning consent and completed your site preparation. We can deliver virtually anywhere in the country and the modular format enables you to expand your home at a later date if required.”

Prices range from $89,000 for a one bedroom home of 51 m2, $99,000 for a 70m2 2 bedroom home to $195,000 for a 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom home of 140 m2. Pricing includes floor coverings, painting, oven, cook top, range hood, laundry tub, corner shower, hand basins and vanity units, heated towel rail and extractor fan. Transport, piles and installation are in addition. While homebuyers are responsible for site preparation, Matrix can organise this on their behalf.

Homebuyers can personalise their home by selecting options including decks, garages and heat pumps and the like.

When the factory reaches full production, economies of scale will enable the costs to be further reduced to around half that of a same sized house build on-site.

The factory currently employs six people fulltime with that number expected to grow to 70 by the end of this year.

Sean Murrie said, “A Show Home has been completed and the concept has attracted considerable interest from home buyers and property developers and we are now completing the final design details for a large number of customers. By the end of 2015, we expect to be building one house per day and are aiming for 1,000 per year when the factory reaches full production. Realising this goal will help contribute to lowering the cost of new housing and develop a sustainable manufacturing business in the Hutt Valley.”  

How much did it cost to buy an average car and an average house 50 years ago and how much does it cost now?

I can’t give the exact figures but I cam confident that the increase in the cost of the average car is far less than the cost of the average house?

Several factors will be responsible for that, one of those is that we get mass produced cars but we don’t get mass produced houses.

These houses aren’t mass produced but the time and cost involved in building them is a lot less than conventional methods.

7 Responses to Why aren’t houses like cars?

  1. Andrei says:

    What’s new about this?

    This has been done in New Zealand since the nineteen fifties at least if not before,

    After the Christchurch Earthquakes there was a great ra ra about building replacement houses this way a two and three bedroom variants to quickly house the homeless.

    An initiative which seems to have sunk without a trace, four homes built I believe. Maybe I’m wrong and this is an ongoing thing.

    But I remember the ra ra when it was announced complete with Gerry Brownlee in attendance and giving his blessing

  2. Dave Kennedy says:

    I think that you could extend this analogy, Ele, to having a warrant of fitness for existing houses too. Too many adults and children suffer from poor health due to inadequate housing and people who shift here from Europe are shocked at our lack of insulation and double glazing etc. Also cars have steadily improved in their design, energy efficiency and build quality over time while housing has not improved to the same degree.

    We don’t want to mass build low quality housing that will create further crises at a later date. The original state houses are still well regarded after 70 years or so, we should be able to build future proofed housing that is very livable and energy efficient 70 years into the future.

    I also like the Greens ‘rent to buy’ scheme so that more people are able get into home ownership and build financial security and some capital assets of their own.


  3. JC says:

    I think part of the problem is education. 50 years ago most people didn’t go to university much and happily enough accepted that they would have to settle for “middle” jobs that forced them to buy second hand cars and smaller houses in the new suburbs.

    But they also knew they could move on and up as the kids got off their hands and mum could go to work and dad got promoted and thats what they did. You could go Sunday driving round many parts of the cities in the 80s and 90s and see Boomers building their dream homes.. up from 1200 sq feet to 2000 sq with double or treble garages and four bedrooms.

    But now the kids have degrees and expectations but really their jobs aren’t that different to those middle jobs of decades earlier.. a degree and job in journalism or a degree and job in some social work in the mid 20s doesn’t mean instant wealth any more than earlier jobs in carpentry and nursing did, there’s still the need to start small and cheap and build over the decades. Add in less permanent relationships and its an even slower progression.

    Another thing we haven’t done is learn from the US. It too suffered increasing urbanisation as people rushed from the South and interior to the big cities on the coasts.. thats where the jobs and the money was. But the interior and the South fought back with better living conditions, more agile local Govt and invention.. over the last few years Texas created more jobs than the rest of the states combined. States like Texas have been pulling industry, manufacturing and hi tech jobs out of the North and California with ever greater ease as the coastal cities mire themselves in stasis induced by lousy politics and regulation.

    Our regions need to do something similar.. its almost obscene to see small towns and cities drown themselves in regulations and local politics on the scale of AK, Wgton and Chch and depopulate as a result.


  4. Dave Kennedy says:

    I agree with some of what you say, JC, but we also have thousands of families just grateful to have any house at all and many are sharing houses in severely crowded conditions.

    You are referring to the middle classes but according to statistics around 40% of Pasifika families are living in substandard, overcrowded houses.

  5. Dave Kennedy says:

    Also it isn’t just regulations that have hit our smaller communities, they have also lost many government employees and service jobs. Banks have moved away, DoC, Inland Revenue, Post Offices have all closed offices and shed jobs. Farms are larger and employ fewer people too. Cheap housing does attract some people into smaller towns but they are often the sort of people who do not add value to the community.

    I agree about the need to build jobs in the manufacturing sector and ones that require higher qualifications. That is why we need to spend a lot more on R & D and shift investment from property into productive industries.

    The high value of our dollar is also a continuing issue that limits the expansion of manufacturing and makes us less competitive. Reducing the cost of energy would also help.

  6. Mr E says:

    In you ‘fully costed policy’ what is the additional cost a NZ renter would expect from having house WOF?
    What would the increase in House values be?

  7. Dave Kennedy says:

    It is an expectation overseas that rented houses should meet minimal standards and how else do you suggest we lift the appalling state of our cheaper housing? The Government has already introduced this into state housing.

    I guess under the current shortage and resulting demand landlords can charge what the market can absorb so building more houses at the same time would be important. It will also be a concern if social housing is shifted to the private sector without minimum standards because profits will always come before quality and those unable to afford a decent house will be forced to live in some real dives.


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