Northland students solving housing shortage with new building course

Students at a Northland high school think they might have found the answer to the country's housing shortage.

Dargaville High School is running the country's first Building Academy where new-found skills are being put to good use.

The houses are being constructed look like any other. But what's not ordinary are its 'builders', a bunch of teenagers.

The young men celebrating its completion are part of Dargaville High's building academy.

It's run as a private company within the school, where students learn all the skills needed to prepare them for an apprenticeship.

"Who wouldn't employ them, they know how to do it. They know the difference between a joist and a rafter so that's always good," tutor and licensed builder Tim Pratt says.

Pratt says the materials were funded by a private sponsor, who'll be paid back once the house is sold.

The home has three bedrooms and two bathrooms, and Pratt says it's just as good as any other new home on the market. It's on sale for around $250,000 but he says that price is negotiable.

With one house done and another underway, there's hope the idea could lead to bigger things.

"Next year we'll try to build six houses, but if every school did it, well there you go mate, there's your housing crisis done and dusted," Pratt says.

While that might seem ambitious, the programme has support in high places.

"Well here's the stunning thing, we've got a whole lot of kids coming out of university then going into an apprenticeship, that tells you we haven't got something right," NZ First leader Winston Peters says.

But for the students, it's all about obtaining real-life skills and a sense of achievement.

"At the start, it wasn't much to us, but the outcome is pretty amazing to know we built the house," one student says.

Learning life skills in school time, proving an invaluable asset to these young men and their community.