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Council backs housing crisis plan

An aerial shot of Masterton. A recent housing stock-take by the district council has led to councillors backing a Local Government NZ remit for a National Policy Statement on housing. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

 

MARCUS ANSELM

[email protected]

Masterton District Council [MDC] has backed a battle plan for New Zealand’s housing crisis.

It wants an affordable housing National Policy Statement and the introduction of legislation for councils to facilitate cheaper homes.

This decision follows an initiative launched by Hamilton and Christchurch city authorities calling for “a more joined-up response” to tackle the national housing shortage.

Last year, MDC worked with Connecting Communities Wairarapa, a local social services organisation, on a stocktake of local housing.

It found that of 10,280 households in the district, 100 were in emergency housing or were homeless.

Another 360 households were in social housing, while 1240, or 12.1 per cent, could not afford to pay the lowest quartile of market rents.

More than 500, 5.4 per cent, could not afford to buy the cheapest house, and a further 100, or one per cent, could not afford median market rents.

Trust House is the largest landlord of affordable housing in Wairarapa.

The company owns 361 houses in Masterton, 25 houses in Carterton and South Wairarapa, and 97 in Tararua.

Last month, Trust House chief executive Charles Kaka told the Times-Age the company was in discussions with “other committed parties”, such as MDC, on “how we can work together to provide not just more but also more relevant housing stock”.

This has been done overseas using the inclusionary zoning concept, which was discussed by councillors last week.

It seeks land, or financial contributions, from developers to be vested into nominated housing land trusts.

As an example, a council’s district plan could require that land developers provide five per cent of titled sections from up-zoned land to a community housing trust.

This land would then be retained on behalf of the community in perpetuity and used for affordable housing.

Zoning in Wairarapa is managed through the Combined District Plan.

A review of the plan is set to begin later this year.

The inclusionary zoning concept had been trialled with some success, MDC chief executive Kath Ross said.

“I don’t think there’s any harm in investigating what that looks like, as part of a raft of measures to increase housing supply, at all levels.

“I do take the point that the government haven’t picked this up although there has been a lot of investment and investigation done previously. It could be a really good tool in the toolkit.”

Councillor Tim Nelson backed the measure and thought the example of a five per cent levy needed raising.

Nelson cited examples in Singapore which promoted diversity in building and rental laws.

“I feel if the percentage was higher, you’d have more diverse blocks in communities.

“The issue we have in our communities is that they are segregated, and the higher that percentage was, the more diversity there would be, and less segregation.”

Deputy Mayor Graham McClymont was cautious, adding that the levy would raise land values.

“Surely it puts the prices up on those blocks of land?”

At its meeting last week, Masterton councillors backed nine other initiatives MDC staffers asked to be considered at the Local Government New Zealand [LGNZ] annual general meeting in Wellington later this month.

They included proposals for financial support for public transport, environmental measures, and increased use of te reo Maori.

-NZLDR

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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