Steep block of land earmarked as Nelson Special Housing Area
A steep block of land in Nelson's Victory Square suburb could soon be home to a new subdivision constructed using hempcrete.
The Nelson City Council has approved four new special housing areas (SHAs) as part of the Housing Accord, which is an agreement between councils and central government intended to boost housing supply.
A 15-lot block of land at 42 St Lawrence St is included in the suite of new SHAs.
Council officers advised councillors the steep section sits in a residential area but had been left until last because "it's a difficult site" to develop.
The land is accessed from a right-of-way on St Lawrence St, as well as cul-de-sac Rimu St.
Council officers said Rimu St would need roading upgrades in order for it to meet council requirements for safe access to the development.
However, they said it was appropriate for a SHA because while it may not have been signed-off under usual residential development conditions, the Housing Accord would bypass this while requiring the developer to upgrade the road infrastructure.
SHA applicant for the site, Jo Say, said she and her team were up to the challenge.
"I think we're all aware that land in central Nelson is becoming rarer and harder to find."
"This piece of land is so close to the CBD, one of the beautiful things about people living in the houses there is they're going to be able to walk easily or cycle into town."
She said her team had already been consulting on the Rimu St access and had come up with an initial plan.
Say said she was most excited about the prospect of designing and building the houses with an eco-friendly approach.
"I want to build the first hempcrete village in the Southern Hemisphere," Say said.
The alternative building substance is made by mixing industrial hemp and lime.
Say said the hemp plant was a "cousin" of the cannabis plant and could be used as alternative to plastic, timber and cotton.
She said she'd been inspired by UK Grand Design's architect, Kevin McCloud, who'd built an estate of houses in her home town of Swindon out of hempcrete.
"Basically he has said building with hempcrete is a no-brainer."
She said it was a much more environmentally-friendly substance to use than traditional concrete and while it was still new in New Zealand, homes up in Taranaki had already been built with it.
"Hempcrete is no more or less expensive than an average build. It's not really expensive, and it's not ridiculously cheap," Say said.
She said the first home would likely take a bit longer to build, as the council inspectors would not be familiar with hempcrete, but the Taranaki homes had already proved it was a compliant substance in New Zealand.
"Once Nelson inspectors have become familiar with the product and we've actually jumped through those hoops in order for it to meet the regulations, then it will be straight-forward," she said.
Nelson City Councillors unanimously voted to approve the SHA, although some had concerns about the steepness of the land and the amount of work needed to get it up to standard.
Say said there were huge numbers of Nelson houses built on hillsides and there was no reason why it couldn't be a successful SHA.
"If there's a large piece of land right in the centre of Nelson that hasn't been built on, sooner or later someone's going to build on it so I guess I looked at it and said 'why not me?'
She said she intended to sell the houses at Nelson's median house price to keep them in an affordable price bracket, and was looking for anyone who might want to come on board and collaborate in the project.
42 St Lawrence St "Parklands" subdivision
- 15 lot subdivision by Deva Homes
- 11 homes to be built, along with four empty sections
- Access through St Lawrence St and Rimu St
- Common land orchard intended for north-west end of subdivision
- Roading upgrade required for Rimu St in order for consent to be granted
- Houses to be built from hempcrete, pending building consent and inspection, and will be solar homes