Affordable Housing – The Im/Possible Dream?

July 22, 2015

More than 200 Queenstowners turned out to learn about the different perspectives of affordable housing and discuss ways forward for Queenstown. You can see the presentations at https://youtu.be/DTaiinLRgrs

Or the very quick version:

  • Shamubeel Eaqub (former NZIER principal economist and author of Generation Rent):

The market will not self-correct, current policies (rental, tax and banking) favour the rich and do not work, and the government shows no signs of wanting to change them. Local solutions are needed – and housing solutions proposed/implemented in Auckland will not work here as the problems are different. We have a moral obligation and economic imperative to ensure housing solutions for workers. Retained affordable housing – i.e. housing that remains affordable to successive owners – is key. Millennials will be the agent of change – no longer requiring huge homes on big sections.

  • Scott Figenshow (CEO of Community Housing Aotearoa and former QLDC planner):

Long history of housing crises in Queenstown. 40% of Queenstown houses are second, third or fourth homes. Employers used to have to provide worker accommodation and plan change 24 had mandated developer contributions to community housing, but neither is still the case. Community housing sector has the capacity for housing 50,000 people NZ-wide by 2020, operating on a not-for-dividend, tax exempt basis. Needs to be driven by regional/local communities despite being policy driven by Central government. Retention mechanism vital.

  • Tommy Honey (architect and Radio New Zealand urbanism commentator):

Quarter acre property with stand-alone home no longer a realistic expectation for much of NZ. Embrace intensification and higher density, based close to infrastructure and jobs. Need better public transport and build small, warm homes that are net electricity generators. Encourage high-quality prefabricated architecture (portable, economic, efficient) owned by investors on leasehold land and rented to seasonal workers/visitors (the stationary VW Combi concept). Transient housing in the centre, to minimise transport load. People need to be trained to save early on if they want to buy a house.

  • Peter Southwick (Wanaka developer and Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust):

QLCHT housing 300 people at present, but with abandonment of plan change 24, they no longer have a mechanism to gain capital from developers’ value uplift so there are challenges ahead. He tried to develop small affordable housing in Wanaka but failed – expensive place to build. Costs: 6% Council, 6% GST, 53% construction and site works, 25% land and services and 10% profit. But housing is still affordable if you rent where you work and buy where you can afford. This is a western world problem with no simple solution but small steps, like QLCHT, matter. Requires the goodwill of the whole community and leadership from the wealthy.

And among suggestions and feedback from those attending:

  • Avoiding fuel poverty a big issue. Housing needs to be affordable for those occupying it.
  • Lakeview an ideal site for affordable housing – close to town, owned by Council.
  • Community should get proportion of GST it sends to Central government towards affordable housing
  • 3800 unoccupied homes in Queenstown at last census. Tax them? Bylaw so they have to be rented out?
  • Council should deliver planning/zoning/infrastructure more quickly.
  • Be radical in some places with intensive zoning and stop the urban sprawl.
  • Imitate Tamaki We Development Company.
  • Put duty on employers to provide worker housing.
  • Queenstown can’t bear the shift of foreign capital into our residential market forever.
  • Dense and intense housing requires good architecture and planning.
  • Change rating policy so that can facilitate worker accommodation in existing properties.