Affordable homes in city centre 'hard to justify'

CHRIS HYDE
Last updated 05:00 18/10/2012

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Finding room for affordable homes in Christchurch's new city centre will be difficult, Housing Minister Phil Heatley says.

High central-city land values would make it hard to justify including state houses and affordable housing in the new-look central city, he told a Christchurch Housing Forum yesterday.

He said he was wary of building large blocks of state houses anywhere in the city centre.

"We are keen to get some quite close to the CBD, but we shouldn't buy the most expensive sections, and if we do they have to be smaller."

He said the Government was looking at building some state houses in the new city centre but he would not make promises or say what streets the homes would be in.

"We are looking at it but I don't think it will be extremely extensive," he said.

The city council and the Government this week launched an international competition for the design and build of an urban village on a 1-hectare site on the northeast corner of Latimer Square. There is no specific requirement to include affordable or social housing within the village, but Heatley was confident designers would incorporate it anyway.

"We are a bit reluctant [to impose rules] because we are looking for flair," he said.

Heatley said after the forum that expensive inner-city land would discourage builders from building affordable housing.

"That is the difficulty and part of the reason we are doing this demonstration village - to get people to think about ways to work around this," he said.

City councillor Glenn Livingstone, who was at the forum, said the Government needed to get creative to make central-city land more affordable.

"Flair and affordability can go in the same sentence," Livingstone said.

"It really starts to make it sound as if the city centre is going to be out of the reach of most Cantabrians.

"If you think laterally and creatively, there are ways to bring land cost down."

He said the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority's central-city blueprint stated that there was an opportunity for the development of a diverse range of housing in the city centre.

"A renewed business area requires greater opportunities for high-quality inner-city living in a range of housing options, from one-bedroom units to affordable, larger family houses suitable for people of all ages and stages of life," Livingstone said.

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