Wellington City Council puts affordable and social housing on urgent agenda
If Wellington wants to avoid an Auckland-style housing crisis, it needs to tackle its problems now, mayor Justin Lester is warning.
Wellington City Council is planning immediate action, with Lester setting up a housing taskforce to ensure a solution is found before April.
Early in the new year, councillors will vote on new policies such a $5000 rates rebate for building first homes, a new model to help deliver affordable housing, and expanding the stock of social housing.
Lester said the council would act swiftly to get new homes built.
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"If we want to avoid a situation like Auckland, we need to take action."
A recent meeting of the housing taskforce found there was an urgent need for local government to step up. It identified affordable, social and emergency housing as areas in need of immediate action.
The taskforce chaired by deputy mayor Paul Eagle, the council's housing portfolio leader, includes iwi representatives, the construction industry, community organisations, tertiary education, property developers and Housing New Zealand.
There was a difference between what developers and others thought was affordable, so the taskforce would help to determine what affordability looked like in Wellington, Eagle said.
"Home ownership is out of reach for many in the city. I believe affordable housing would be well under $500,000."
This month Wellington took Auckland's crown as the country's hottest housing market, and outranked it on a list of the world's cities with the fastest-growing house prices.
Average house prices in the region hit the $500,000 mark for the first time, and Wellington had the lowest number of properties going on sale across the country.
"We want to take control before a crisis spirals out of control," Eagle said.
The council has earmarked six sites for housing and has included Strathmore Park, The Oaks, Lincolnshire Farm and Adelaide Rd. But had not ruled out other areas, Eagle said.
"We are gearing up to start building houses using land we already own and we will be innovative."
The council, which owns around 2200 social housing units on 40 locations across the city, plans to partner with private developers by offering them a pipeline of work spanning 20 years.
This concept was being trialled with the Arlington apartments on the western side of Hopper St, in the inner-city suburb of Mt Cook, which were demolished.
The council asked private sector developers to submit expressions of interest and provide options on how the land could be used better, Eagle said.
"We want to use the land we own to deliver more than just social housing."
The council would recommend that developers get "the right mix" of housing on its sites, he said.
"For example, we may ask for 30 per cent affordable, 10 per cent social and 60 per cent private."
Although the council would retain ownership of all social housing that flowed from a development, it was open to developers building private housing alongside it, which could be rented or on sold.
Wellington needed a tailored, long-term housing plan and better data to improve decision-making, he said.
The council needed to overhaul its processes to make it easier to build more homes and work with central government.
"Housing is going to be a problem for us and a key priority is coming up with a proposed solution to build more homes."
The taskforce would develop masterplans for neighbourhoods, getting the housing mix right with developers and creating a pipeline for long-term housing construction, he said.
Final taskforce recommendations will be presented in April to align with the council's annual plan deliberations.