Housing crisis in Wakatipu

Last updated 10:55 23/07/2014

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It's a perfect storm in the Wakatipu basin with residential-zoned land available for thousands of houses yet hardly a sod of soil has been turned . . . John Edens investigates.

The Wakatipu is in crisis - in dire need of more houses with hundreds of people on waiting lists and a growing number of young families trying to get on the property ladder.

Housing affordability, low wages, high costs of living, lack of new developments on residential-zoned land, planning restrictions and costs for developers are a perfect storm - deterring landowners from selling or subdividing, inflating prices and stymieing prospective homeowners.

Tracts of land already zoned for residential have not been developed or, if they have been developed, only a handful of homes have been built.

Residential-zoned areas include swathes of prime soil owned by Remarkables Park and the Mee family, who own much of the land between Kelvin Heights and Deerpark Heights.

Remarkables Park, Kelvin Heights and Jacks Point have the potential to accommodate more than 8000 homes.

One of the busiest subdivisions with an affordable component is Shotover Country run by Sharyn and Grant Stalker

The land has zoning for almost 900 homes, with building being done by a variety of firms, Classic Builders, Jennian Homes, GJ Gardner, and Stonewood.

Sharyn Stalker said most of the buyers were first-time homeowners with young families who wanted a Kiwi-style residential neighbourhood. Twenty-four homes are occupied.

Building of the Shotover Primary School started last month to open early next year and land was assigned for a shopping centre, an early childhood centre, a swim school and a retirement village, she said.

"We wanted to design a Kiwi-style residential neighbourhood, offering families the opportunity to purchase affordable sections close to Queenstown to meet market demand. We're keen to promote healthy living within the community too, with reserves, recreational grounds, biking and walking trails."

Shotover Country also provided land to Queenstown Lakes Community Housing trust to build multi-unit duplex and standalone homes available for shared ownership.

"Shotover Country appears to be a very popular option for people and the demand has been overwhelming," said Grant Stalker, Shotover Country managing director.

Frank Mee - in a rare media interview - told the Mirror there were high costs associated with subdivision.

The Government needed to ease the burden on subdivisions hit with costs to develop land, roading, telecommunications and infrastructure then hit with GST when they sold sections, he said.

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He estimated about 100ha of his land was undeveloped and zoned for residential. Central Government needed to consider the tax framework around affordable housing, he said.

"I do think developers' contributions are too high. They are so high that I'm not prepared as a landowner to pay that when I do a subdivision.

"In my view there is no such thing as an affordable house. It's impossible to do it with the building costs, the costs the council put and the general resource management act.

"There's GST on every stick of timber needed to build a house, GST on everything you buy to build a house as well as GST on subdivisions and sections and whatever you sell it for."

Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust chairman David Cole earlier this month said land banking restrictions were needed under the Resource Management Act.

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

"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."

Queenstown Lakes District Council general manager of planning and infrastructure Marc Bretherton said housing needs were under extensive review as part of the district plan and the proposed housing accord - a broad agreement to provide suitable homes in areas of need - with the Government.

Better and more detailed information about the supply of land and housing and the demand was in the pipeline, he said.

"As we get into a period of population growth . . . we want to make sure we not only have enough potential land available for housing, we also want to ensure we have the right housing available.

"In the Wakatipu basin and Wanaka there's a significant supply of low-density residential land.

"Is that the right type of housing for the population? To a degree."

Bretherton said be believed there was a market for medium to high-density housing, which was more appropriate for a low to median wage economy.

HOW MANY HOMES?

Town centre Queenstown: 19 existing dwellings/136 total capacity (86 per cent unbuilt)

High density Queenstown: 1250/4038 (68)

Kelvin Hts: 603/2553 (76)

Remarkables Park: 101/2375 (95)

Jacks Pt: 90/3235 (97)

Arthurs Pt: 287/726 (60)

SOURCE: Queenstown Lakes District Council, March 2013 figures

- The Mirror

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