Affordable housing tough

00:10, May 31 2012

Affordable housing is a problem in Queenstown – and the district council's efforts to tackle it will not be the sole solution, the former High Court Judge tasked with solving the problem says.

Peter Salmon was appointed chairman of the Queenstown Lakes District Council's Affordable Housing Working Party in January.

After the party's first meeting on May 2, Mr Salmon issued a minute outlining key issues at stake, and "what appears to be a way forward" – which was made public for the first time yesterday.

"A workable solution, likely to comprise many aspects, is needed to address the issue," of affordable housing, he said in the report.

The council's proposed solution was to make specific development contribution fees, paid by property developers on commencement of a large building project compulsory. The fees would then be siphoned into affordable housing.

This was to be enshrined in the council's governing document, its district plan, through plan change 24.

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However this was vehemently opposed by a group of high-profile property developers, who said it would stymie development and force them and other developers to take their business outside the district – resulting in stalled economic growth for the region.

The case has been through the Environment Court and the High Court, and after not being resolved, will proceed to the Court of Appeal.

In the working party's first meeting Mr Salmon asked the council's representatives if the council would reconsider the plan change if "a better solution that achieves buy-in from all parties" could be found.

The council's representative, strategy committee chairman Leigh Overton had already agreed to do so in principle, so long as the plan's objective of making affordable housing accessible was retained, Mr Salmon reported.

Some statements in the plan change were expressed "too broadly" and would have to be narrowed down, Mr Salmon said.

Measuring "planning gain", or the general price increase in land after it was rezoned from rural general use to urban use – and could be subdivided, was key. Parties were directed to read an Environment Ministry paper on this.

Many other options were discussed, including a visitor tax, rates funding and making the development of rental housing cheaper.

The full working party would next meet again in mid or late next month.

The Southland Times