Rebuild firms 'should house staff'

MICHAEL BERRY
Last updated 11:02 20/03/2012

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The Government appears to have ruled out further intervention in Christchurch's worsening rental housing crisis.

The solution is best left to the market, Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee says.

He said it was up to the companies profiting from the Christchurch rebuild to provide accommodation for staff.

"The idea that the Government would set up a big work camp somewhere in the city I think is just a little bit too much of a stretch," he said.

"You've got contractors who are coming into town ... to make money.

"And there's nothing wrong with that, but I think you would have to ask the question, 'Where is the obligation for the Crown to provide accommodation in that event?' "

The private sector could be doing a lot more to "help themselves", he said.

Some temporary buildings already owned by the Government were being moved on to a site as fast as possible, and the Government would continue to monitor the situation.

"Where there's a shortage there's opportunity, so I think it will be relatively short-lived."

He said businesses that wanted to participate in the rebuild should make provision for their work force. "I'm not sure that that is a taxpayer obligation, particularly of worker accommodation."

It was up to the private sector how the accommodation was provided, and the sector had several options, Brownlee told Fairfax today.

Real Estate Institute survey reveals shortage

Many tenants are having to live in their earthquake-damaged homes while tradesmen work around them as the city's rental housing drought bites, a Real Estate Institute of New Zealand survey has shown.

The institute surveyed its member property managers last week and found 66 per cent of the agents were trying to find month-long temporary accommodation for tenants while their houses were repaired.

The property managers, who together manage 11,500 rental houses, said virtually nothing was available in the city.

About 40 per cent said it was impossible to relocate tenants, and most were remaining in their homes while they were fixed. The remaining agents were finding it extremely difficult to find vacant accommodation.

Brownlee said yesterday that a temporary accommodation village similar to those at Linwood Park and the Kaiapoi Domain would be available in 12 weeks.

However, the Government was careful about how it influenced the housing market, he said.

If it had jumped in earlier, it could have artificially lowered the appetite of private investors to provide a solution that could be lucrative for investors, he said.

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At first, people had been slow to take up temporary housing, but increased demand was evidence of the rebuild starting to crank up, he said.

"Some of the contractors should be looking at ways to house their workers, who will be making them a lot of money," Brownlee said.

Fletcher Earthquake Recovery spokesman Barry Akers said a shortage of short-term accommodation in the tightening rental market had been raised as a potential problem but this has not proved to be the case.

The consensus from the Government was the market would deal with the housing shortage, he said.

Real Estate Institute Canterbury director Tony McPherson said quake repairs were in danger of being delayed.

Adding rebuilds to the repair work would exacerbate the housing problem.

"There is huge pressure on rental accommodation in the city from people who have been forced out of the red zone, the large short-term work force in the city there to assist with the recovery, as well as the normal seasonal demand from tertiary students."

McPherson understood temporary accommodation opened up by the Government was fully occupied.

"There is a need for a circuit-breaker if the rebuild of homes is to be carried out efficiently. Without it, the rebuild is in jeopardy causing further frustration, delay and unnecessary stress on Christchurch people who now want to get on with their lives."

He wanted more short-term rental accommodation to be set up by the Earthquake Commission or the Building and Housing Department, or other ideas to help house visiting tradesmen.

Moteliers and other accommodation providers were becoming consistently full with displaced families rather than the usual numbers of tourists.

This was affecting the business of other industries reliant on visitors spending money, McPherson said.

Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism chief executive Tim Hunter said would-be visitors were at times not coming to Christchurch because it was too difficult to find a room, he said.

When more homes started being repaired, pressure could increase. There were, however, also hotels waiting to be reopened, which would ease the situation, he said.

"I think this is the year where there will be times when tourists are competing with locals for motel rooms, there's no doubt about that."

- The Press

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