Housing pressure drives shoddy building practices

Housing pressure drives shoddy building practices

The Homeowners and Buyers Association says Auckland is heading for a shoddy building crisis as bad as the leaky homes fiasco of the 1990s.

As pressure mounts on the industry to build more homes in Auckland, faster, the quality of work is dropping.

Thirty percent of all building inspections are being failed; in fact, some months Auckland Council fails close to 40 percent.

Housing pressure drives shoddy building practices

Currently, the super city undertakes 135,000 inspections a year -- half of the country's inspections -- so more than 40,000 fail in Auckland every year.

Jeff Fahrenshon has been an inspector for 20 years. He's currently the boss of all Auckland Council inspectors. He says he's never seen the building standard in the super city as low as it is now.

"The scale has been dropping over the last few years," he says. "With a lot more people coming into the industry the skill level has dropped slightly and we've noticed that. Our fail rates have increased."

Almost a third of all inspections fail. Auckland Council has been documenting some of the worst examples. 

Mr Fahrensohn says it's a mix of inexperienced builders getting it wrong and cowboys trying to cut corners.

"It's more the scale. We're seeing whole houses as opposed to parts of it that have been built wrong or they've tried to pull the wool over the inspectors' eyes."

It's thought Auckland needs to build 13,000 houses a year for the next 30 years to keep up with demand. 

John Gray, the president of the Homeowners and Buyers Association, says the more Auckland needs to build, the poorer the quality the city is getting.

"The pressure is on to build the houses, to build them cheaply and to build them quickly, and you combine that with poor standards around the building quality, and you're going to have problems."

Housing pressure drives shoddy building practices

He has received hundreds of complaints and says what's happening now is similar to the leaky building crisis.

"That, which occurred in the mid-1990s with the pressure on the housing industry, is going to be repeated now in the mid-2000s, so it is of great concern that we are going to repeat this cycle over and over again every time there is a boom." 

The council disputes that, but says it's employing more inspectors than ever. The council's building manager, Ian McCormick, says it's hiring more inspectors to stay on top of the problem.

Housing pressure drives shoddy building practices

"We're coping but we're definitely under load and it's going to put some pressure on some of our service levels." 

Builders say inexperienced guys are dragging down the industry. Warren Adolph has been building for 30 years and is regarded by the council as one of the best.

"I think I have a moral obligation to the public and to the industry, so the industry retains a good image."

Housing pressure drives shoddy building practices

Sometimes work is so bad it's dangerous -- entire walls nowhere near straight, block work not properly reinforced and steel beams not close to being properly anchored.

The council says they're stopping the worst of the it, but others worry that it's inevitable that some dodgy work will fall through the cracks.