Thousands of kiwi homes — the Swedish way?


Building Today talks to PrefabNZ membership and communications manager Alice Boultbee. PrefabNZ is a partner and sponsor at the buildnz designex trade show being held at the ASB Showgrounds in Auckland on July 4-5.



As the saying goes, you can’t keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. PrefabNZ proposes that offsite construction must be part of any rapid quality build solution

New Zealand’s population is small, and there is the opportunity for a “joined-up approach” between policy makers, implementers at the MBIE, and the construction industry.

What can we learn from others who have achieved similar or greater targets? Sweden built 1 million homes over 10 years from 1965 to 1974 in the Million Programme from a population base of 8 million people — just double that of New Zealand’s.

The Million Programme was the Swedish Government’s response to acute housing shortages. The programme’s goal was to provide affordable housing, keep open spaces, improve traffic congestion, and encourage residents to walk, ride bicycles and use public transport.

Densities were to be very concentrated, and all units were to be within 500 metres of public transport.

There was an increased expectation around the standard of living, so demolition of older housing stock occurred.

The Swedish government also exerted legislation changes, including: 

price control and property taxes on house sales,

new land acquisition rules for local authorities,

extending urban development boundaries and merging municipalities for creating town planning capacity,

providing state loans with low rates,

encouraging building techniques to be developed,

provided subsidies and incentives to building companies to start construction for affordable housing,

rigorous rent control under a specialised housing department,

encouraging tenant-owned co-operatives, and

creating municipal-owned building companies.

The Million Program focused mostly on high-rise buildings with precast concrete structures.

At its peak, 120,000 units per year were produced during that period, with 75% being apartments in multi-storey buildings.

Most of the buildings of the era have survived quite well with routine maintenance, but there was criticism about the uniform design and poor architecture.

Interestingly, most of the residents who ended up in these units were new immigrants as Swedes tended to shun them.

With the advancement of technology and innovative construction, KiwiBuild targets don’t appear out of reach compared to the Swedish Million Programme.

For success and long-term use of any new developments, exceptional design, planned infrastructure and medium density must be added to government legislation.