Homes for Generations

Project Info


Funded through the Building Better Homes Towns and Cities National Science Challenge, the FAAB Small Homes research programme aims to diversify Aotearoa NZ’s housing by developing research-based solutions which:

  • Ensure the production and availability of functional, accessible and affordable small homes (about 45-70m2) delivered through community, private sector, Māori, and public housing developers and providers; and
  • Provide choices for households and whānau within their communities of housing that best-fits their needs and adapts over life-stages to meet changing capacities and capabilities.

This solutions focused research provides for developing robust science and research-based tools that will:

  • Remove barriers to adopting accessible housing as a practical national requirement for new-build homes.
  • Promote and retain affordable, accessible design housing solutions in the small home segment of the housing system.

Homes are at the centre of lowering the disability threshold and keeping people independent and connected. The economic, social and personal costs of inaccessible, poorly functioning and costly to modify stock has been recognised by advocates and housing researchers for many years. Despite the evidence, until recently there has been little traction on policy, legislation, and practice, particularly compared to thermal and energy performance requirements. This is now changing.

MBIE has been charged with exploring accessibility in new builds, HUD has identified accessibility and functionality as critical to our housing and urban futures, the Retirement Commission has recognised that functional, affordable housing has impacts on retirement living standards and incomes, and the Government’s strategy Better Later Life – He Oranga Kaumātua 2019 to 2034 highlights the critical nature of meeting accessible housing needs among seniors.

There is the prospect of legislative change. Even if this does not transpire in the short to medium terms, it is likely that investors in and funders of affordable housing will begin to require housing providers to apply universal design and lifetime designs standard to new builds.

For typically sized dwellings, promoting accessible housing is consistent with domestic and international research showing: (1) accessible design has minimal impacts on building costs; and (2) significant societal benefits associated with take-up of accessible design in new builds. What is not clear is the impact of requiring accessible design on the affordability and supply of small detached, semi-detached or multi-units about 45-70m2. This creates risk. 

In recent years there has been a new willingness to build smaller dwellings to meet increased demand. Small dwellings can: (1) Provide more affordable dwellings; (2) Provide dwellings better fitted to smaller household sizes and an ageing population; (3) Deliver lower and more affordable energy consumption, reduce repairs and maintenance burdens and more effectively use land and carbon resources. Small dwellings are characteristic of apartments and multi-unit production and are being promoted to increase urban intensification. However, there is potential for the building industry to exit small dwelling builds if the construction sector and housing providers believe accessible small dwellings cannot: (1) be designed and built; or (2) be produced at affordable price points and/or profitably.

There is a profound research gap around the minimum size of accessible dwellings and the costs and net benefits of building accessible small dwellings. Evidential uncertainties have the potential to inhibit the adoption of accessible building across all segments of the market as well as the supply of smaller homes.

FAAB Small Homes fills the gap and asks: (1) Can small dwellings deliver affordability and fit while being functional and accessible? (2) What is the minimum size for dwellings compatible with accessible, lifetime design? (3) What are the most effective pathways to establish accessible, lifetime design for building typologies across the housing market including small dwelling builds?

The FAAB Small Homes research is organised around four modules:

  • Module A: Small dwelling demand, supply and price.
  • Module B: Assessing the accessibility and functionality of existing small dwelling designs in Aotearoa NZ and overseas.
  • Module C: Developing affordable solutions for accessible small home design.
  • Module D: Approaches to incentivising developers and providers across the community, private sector, Māori, and public housing sectors to take up accessible small home design.