Housing style to be community decision

With a clean slate to start from, a new Pomare housing project could vary from anything from 'bare bones' apartment blocks to 6-bedroom mansions, a developer says.

Late last month Housing New Zealand awarded Lower Hutt- based City Living Group the contract to redevelop spaces created in and around Farmers Cres after the removal last year of 88 state houses and units.

HNZ acting general manager of asset development Nicolas Giraldo says a mix of different ownership models will create a more balanced and stable community.

The redevelopment will include up to 20 per cent state houses, another 15 per cent "affordable housing", and 65 per cent will be developed for the private market, he says.

City Living director Graeme Cromie says everything about the development is yet to be decided by public consultation and marketability, including density, cost, style and target market.

Initial direction is to be provided by a steering group of representatives appointed by City Living from community interest groups such as iwi, HCC, HNZ and residents group Positive Pomare.

The group's first meeting is planned for mid-way through this month.

Mr Cromie hopes that by Christmas, recommendations from the group will provide a basis for designers and urban planners to start developing detailed proposals for public consultation.

"It could be they want very basic single bedroom dwellings, or it could be they want six bedroom mansions, we don't really know until we sit down. Does the community want to see 12-storey apartment blocks or single-level individual houses?"

An earlier house cost of $350,000 given to media as a starting point for discussions about affordability is a figure they hope to beat, but everything is up for discussion, Mr Cromie says.

"My comment would be that people would buy in the Pomare area if they could buy a house for less than the median price."

The average sale price in Lower Hutt in the last three months was $374,365, according to Trade Me.

Affordability might not include those on benefits, he said, but he expected single- income couples with one child, or those with established savings schemes, to be within the bracket.

However, he emphasised that the development must be profitable.

"Affordable housing, it's all very well, but the situation is very clear that building costs in New Zealand are very high.

"Everybody wants a fully insulated double-glazed house with all bells and whistles, but that costs more to build than what current market value is, and people don't understand that.

"If we don't sell houses . . . then it won't happen."

Hutt Union and Community Health Service community health worker Dina Awarau says there is hopeful expectation about the project.

"We love Pomare, we see an opportunity to make the community better."

HUCHS is to take part in the steering group, and will promote healthy, well insulated homes available to families as either affordable rentals or at affordable prices. However $350,000 is not easily affordable for middle class working families, she says.

She says a handful of families who were moved from the area when HNZ began demolishing housing would like to come back.

HNZ says final decisions about what will be built will be made by City Living in partnership with HNZ.

Past HNZ Pomare tenants can apply to transfer to the new state housing when they are complete, Mr Giraldo says. But "as per our normal practice, once the homes are completed they will be offered to families in greatest need."

Hutt News