More time for social housing group

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 05:00 23/05/2013

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A nonprofit consortium behind plans to build social housing units on Christchurch City Council-owned land in Hornby has been given another 10 months to get building work started.

The council agreed almost a year ago to sell land it owned on Shands Rd to a consortium made up of the New Zealand Housing Foundation, Abbeyfield New Zealand, Housing Plus and the Salvation Army which wanted to build 42 social housing units on the land for low and medium-income residents.

Conditions were attached to the sale of the land, including a provision that it would revert to council ownership if building work had not started by June 2013.

That deadline is fast approaching, yet it is still likely to be several months before work begins on-site. That is because the council's and the consortium's lawyers are still discussing legal issues that must be resolved before the sale and purchase agreement can be signed.

Christchurch City councillors voted, nine to three, last week to extend the consortium's deadline until March 31, 2014, despite strong opposition from the Riccarton-Wigram Community Board.

The board had opposed the decision to sell the land to the consortium, arguing the council should instead follow staff advice and spend $6.5 million on building 35 units on the 1.5 hectare section to help those on the council's social housing waiting list.

Riccarton-Wigram Community Board chairman Mike Mora told councillors the board's view had not changed and as the conditions of the deal had not been met, the council should walk away and do its own development.

"Let's go back to square one," Mora pleaded. "We have a desperate need . . . for our own social housing."

But Deputy Mayor Ngaire Button said while she had not been supportive of the deal with the consortium in the first place, it would "be very unfair for us now . . . to pull the rug out from under them".

Cr Tim Carter said he was concerned the consortium had not honoured its commitment to get work started within a year and that it looked like it would be almost another year before construction got under way.

"I'm nervous that we're 10 months away from having this started. This will be the last extension I will be considering," Carter said.

Council community services general manager Michael Aitken assured councillors the consortium was committed to the project and keen to start work. "They are poised to act as soon as the ink is dry on the sale and purchase agreement," Aitken said.

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- The Press

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