New Zealand’s building industry needs to get better at building more compact homes as part of the delivery of more affordable housing, says Hobsonville Land Company chief executive Chris Aiken.

The company’s Small Home Test Lab at Hobsonville Point would help foster market innovation, he said.

Housing Minister Hon Nick Smith today launched the Test Lab, a research and development initiative to better-understand how to plan, design and build compact homes cost-effectively.

A major factor in New Zealand’s housing affordability issue was the growth in the average size of homes in recent decades, said Mr Aiken.

New Zealand averaged among the largest homes in the world and its average new house size was twice that of European countries.

“Building high-quality, smaller homes is actually more challenging than building ever-bigger houses,” he said. “With good design, a smaller home needn’t be a less attractive option.”

Mr Aiken said that architects, builders, urban designers and marketing experts were contributing to the project as the research and development continued.

“We still have much to learn, but we think the best way to learn, and to promote market innovation, is to learn by doing.

“We’re very interested in market feedback and to see what consumers think about these homes. We think we can improve and refine them further, and that’s the focus of this project.”

Auckland Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse said the Test Lab was well timed with the release of Special Housing Areas around the region.

“Special Housing Areas require affordable housing and this innovation clearly shows what can be achieved and how. Compact housing is vital for Auckland and once again Hobsonville Point and the north west are leading the way,” she said.