Landbankers stifle housing bid

JOHN EDENS
Last updated 05:00 17/07/2014

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A handful of landowners has locked down potential residential development blocks in Queenstown, the resort's housing trust chairman says.

Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust chairman David Cole said landbanking restrictions were needed under the Resource Management Act.

"It's my understanding there's enough residential-zoned land locked up . . . that we'd look after all our needs for the next decade or so."

To stop landbanking, the RMA would, for example, benefit from a "use it or lose it" clause, compelling owners with land rezoned to residential to build within a set timeframe, he said.

"The land might be worth $1 million then suddenly it's residential and the land is worth $10 million. They just want to sit on it. Not a sod of soil is overturned but the value increase from rural to residential is huge."

Local authorities were responsible for zoning, ostensibly for the community, and residents should benefit from rezoned residential land, he said.

On Tuesday night, Clutha Southland election candidates for the Greens, Labour and National chaired an informal meeting in Queenstown with councillors and members of the public to discuss housing needs.

Green Party candidate Dave Kennedy, of Invercargill, said the housing stock condition was deplorable, probably 50 years behind standards in Europe.

Equivalent building materials were 30 per cent more expensive in New Zealand than Australia.

"In Invercargill now families are out [working], they come back to a cold house. This country should be affluent. We're a small country with an abundance of natural resources but we fail to adequately house about 25 per cent of our citizens."

Labour candidate Liz Craig, a doctor and public health researcher, said poor housing was responsible for an increase in cases of respiratory problems among children.

"We have got this pandemic going on in New Zealand at the moment but because it's slow-moving, people aren't moved by it. It's cold, damp crowded houses that have a real big impact."

She said a significant proportion of the population was spending more of their income on rents and mortgage payments. Housing costs were fixed so people were cutting down on heating, fresh fruit and vegetables and living in "s****y" houses.

Labour housing spokesman Phil Twyford said Queenstown was a housing "unaffordability hotspot."

"The crisis has a whole lot of different elements. In order to make a dent we need quite bold change at a number of levels. In Queenstown you're simply not building enough houses, there's a shortage. There's a restricted land supply. Builders don't want to build affordable homes because the land is too expensive . . . Landbanking is a major cause of skyrocketing house prices [and] many developers and landbankers are making a killing at the expense of public good."

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National candidate Todd Barclay said underlying factors affecting housing were land constraints, building material costs and development charges hindering new builds.

"Queenstown is one of the five least affordable [housing areas] in the country. Queenstown is unique, high numbers of homes for rent and high demand in the hospitality industry. It's councils that make the decision and the big issue is effectively getting more houses on the ground. It's about freeing up more land to enable that to occur."

On Tuesday, Labour announced that a national home ownership policy to build 100,000 properties during 10 years includes 1000 affordable houses in Queenstown. john.edens@stl.co.nz

- The Southland Times

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