Students of the Dargaville High School’s Building Academy with the first house being built: From left: Brendan Williamson, Riwhi Hita, Zac Willy, Matthew Sanderson, Matthew Rouse and Adam McCarroll

School enters the housing market

by Paul Campbell

Dargaville High School has launched a major new programme building custom designed two, three and four bedroom houses with a target of selling six new homes in the first year and making a difference to the country’s housing shortage..

The project at the school’s Building Academy has partnered with a private sponsor in a joint venture, creating DHS Enterprises Ltd. The first house is nearing completion, and all are being built by a group of eight academy students under the guidance of tutor and licensed master builder, Tim Pratt.

“I’ve been wanting to do this since 2011 when the academy first started, but the school simply didn’t have the funds. Now we have a sponsor; we are up and running,” he said.

There are five different custom designs across the three house sizes, designed by Lambeth Architectural of Dargaville with professional and financial assistance. Another major contributor to the project is the Carters Building Supply store providing engineering codes free of charge and materials at competitive prices. Kaipara District Council is also behind the programme.

The three and four bedroom houses are approximately 105 square metres, with en-suites. They will sell at about $230,000 to $250,000, which includes all electrical wiring, plumbing, painting inside and out, toilet and bathroom.

“The buyer would need to pay for transport to the site, foundations, council permitting costs white goods and floor coverings, at a completed cost of around $350,000, still a very low-cost and very well built house.

“We have to do it 150% right. We are teaching students to become apprentice builders, so there are no shortcuts, there is no half measure — we do it properly, and we get the council to do regular inspections.”

The students also learn building theory, tool skills and safety during the year-long course, covering building industry (BCITO) approved unit standards, which are part of the NZ Building Apprenticeship Programme.

Graduating students leave with a level three qualification.

“It’s a win-win-win. We help reduce the housing shortage, the students gain essential, employable job skills in a real-life situation, learning on the job, and several local businesses also benefit.”

Mr Pratt says the next steps are to source additional funding so two houses can be built simultaneously, and some sort of roof covering over both sites so work can continue year-round. “This, of course, won’t be cheap, but we might even approach the government’s Provincial Growth Fund, as I believe we meet all of the criteria and more.”

Any profit from the programme will be put back into the academy.

“We want to start automotive and panel beating training alongside the building academy, so we can continue to provide essential pre-employment training, while enabling students to learn on real-life job sites, and importantly, keeping them in school so they leave with the highest qualification they can get — and one they can actually use.”

All houses under construction and in the planning stages are currently for sale.