Doors open for sustainable housing

The Marlborough Sustainable Housing Trust has sold its first house in Blenheim and is about to start building a second.

Chairwoman Bev James said the trust handed over the key to its first home in Brewer St at the end of January. This month, builders would start work on a second home at coastal Rarangi east of Blenheim under the shared ownership scheme. A third was on the drawing board for building to start in Blenheim this year.

"The great things about the house are the warmth, the north-facing aspect, the low maintenance garden, the back section and the nice compact size of the house," says the owner of the Brewer St home.

Solar hot water heating had kept power bills at around $50-60 a month.

A lot of people had approached the trust with a genuine housing need but did not meet criteria, said Dr James. The main barrier was a lack of savings to pay the required deposit.

"We will look at taking a less than 50 per cent share but the person wanting to build would have to demonstrate savings," she said.

The houses were affordable because the trust owned a 50 per cent share leaving the resident to raise the remainder, said Dr James who likened the scheme to parents helping their children to buy a first home. For a $340,000 house, the trust would retain $170,000 of equity and the occupant would contribute $170,000 through savings and borrowing from a bank.

Homeowners could later buy a larger share from the trust or buy the house outright at market rates.

Building costs were kept low by practices including tendering for materials, said Dr James. "We have found huge variation in prices among suppliers."

The homes were designed to last a lifetime, with features like widened doorways and hallways and spacious showers so they remained accessible as their occupants aged with no need for expensive retrofitting.

As well as being affordable, houses built through the trust were environmentally sustainable, said Dr James.

Builder Ben Grady of Discovery Homes NZ Ltd, who built the Brewer St home, had successfully tendered to be a preferred provider for the trust, said Dr James. This meant a commitment on both sides to continuing a professional relationship.

The trust was working with SBS Bank in Blenheim but Kiwibank was also prepared to lend money on trust homes if people met credit requirements, said Dr James.

To qualify for shared home ownership with the trust which is wholly funded by the Canterbury Community Trust, people must live and work in Marlborough, be on a low to moderate household income of about $45,000 to $85,000 and own no home or other property. Register at the website housingtrust.org.nz

The Marlborough Express