False memory



We are aware that memories fade as time goes by.

And recent research has shown that a more significant issue is that people, particularly in a stressful situation, can falsely believe they saw or did what never happened.

This is well known to the legal profession, who view eye witness evidence in court with suspicion.

Witnesses can be convinced they recall an event that couldn’t possibly have occurred as described.

They will also recall things out of sequence, such as saying they were watching a television programme that was actually shown at a later or earlier date.

Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology indicated that it is possible to create a false memory of a traumatic event that never happened.

This result is less convincing when it was explained they were using mice, not humans, in their research.

As one critic of the research said: When you work with humans you have concerns about what are called demand characteristics — effectively a person giving you the response they think you want to hear. This characteristic is probably not true of mice.

Nevertheless, the brain’s neural mechanism, the mechanism underlying the recall of a memory, is the same whether the memory is true or false — a key reason why lie detector tests are not accepted in most courts.

So perhaps things in our industry are not as bad as we think they are, and that the “good old days” were actually not that good.

The issues back then were certainly different, but I do recall, perhaps falsely, that our industry was more collaborative and much more prepared to overcome problems by working together, rather than seeking to apportion blame or to run and hide.


What housing crisis?

While the politicians bicker about what can be done to overcome the current lack of housing in general, and affordable housing in particular, those not yet in the market despair as home ownership becomes a distant prospect.

There are any number of theories as to how to overcome this situation, including some normally sane and respected economists calling for a 40% reduction in the cost of existing houses.

There are a range of reasons why we are faced with this situation, but none will be solved by a dramatic reduction in the value of existing housing, which would have a dire effect on the financial position of anyone who purchased a property in recent years.

It would also seriously undermine the financial strength of banks and other mortgage holders.

At the risk of being considered simplistic, I see two key road blocks to resolving the current situation:

The cost of subdivided and serviced land for new housing. Expensive developed land encourages, if not forces, developers to build the largest and most expensive house they believe the market will bear.

No developer is going to cut their own financial throat by putting an affordable house on an expensive plot of land.

The catalyst for the currently ridiculously high cost of housing in our cities is a quite recent desire for people, both older people and those married with young children, to live close to the city centre.

The reasons why are obvious — closeness to work and central city amenities, better schooling and a lack of effective and available public transport.

This second reason places significant price pressure on a finite supply of housing close to the city centre.

Relying on my admittedly faulty memory, I can recall that in the not too distant past less than 3000 people lived in central Auckland — while Freemans Bay and Ponsonby in Auckland (median prices now heading towards $2 million) were considered slums. Make sense of that.


Average or median

A significant factor in the continuing rise of residential real estate prices is that the print, television and online media publish, almost on a daily basis, lists of average or median house prices, suburb by suburb and city by city.

Those reporting tend to, on the one hand, decry the continued rise in house prices, while on the other hand gleefully note how some suburbs continue to outstrip others in the value stakes.

All it does is turn the purchase of a home into a form of super-lotto.

This is an unhealthy practice, and only adds to the despair of those not yet on the housing ladder. It is not news and should stop.

As columnist and social commentator A A Gill once said: The poor want to go to a better place, while the rich know there isn’t going to be a better place.


Changing times

I often wonder when our industry will enter the 20th, let alone the 21st, Century in terms of technology.

If we don’t plan ahead, change will occur anyway, and a lot faster than we might imagine.

As an extreme example of technology-induced change, in 2000 Kodak had more than 170,000 employees and 85% of the photographic market. Within three years both their market and the company had vanished.

We need to start planning to truly embrace BIM and other technologies. And not just talking about it — actually taking serious steps towards implementing this important, if challenging, technology.

I first heard about BIM 16 years ago in Kyoto, Japan. Government and industry organisations take note.

Sixteen years of thinking about it is too long. You must take the lead, now.

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