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Council offers public housing plan

Panama Village in Masterton. PHOTO/FILE

Masterton District Council is set to launch community consultation on a public housing plan.

The consultation is required to amend the council’s Long Term Plan [LTP] with regards to making about 4.2 hectares of vacant land available for public housing at Panama Village.

Two options would be consulted on over the next month or so: To authorise the council to sell the vacant land at Panama Village on the condition it is used for public housing; or to authorise the council to lease the vacant land at Panama Village on the condition it is used for public housing.

The council’s preferred option is the first.

But the process of doing so isn’t straightforward.

The land in question was gifted by Arthur Whatman in 1938 to the Wairarapa Hospital Board.

The bequest was subject to specific directions, including that the land be used for the “sick, aged or needy” and that “no part of the trust realty shall at any time be sold, let, or leased”.

In 1966, the court approved the transfer of Panama Village from the hospital board to Masterton District Council and established the “Council Scheme”.

The Council Scheme sets out the rules the council must follow to run Panama Village, largely preserving the wishes of Whatman.

It requires the council to use the land for the provision of houses or villas for the elderly and prevents the council from selling or leasing the land.

Masterton District Council runs 44 senior housing units at Panama Village occupying about one-third of the available land area, leaving 4.2ha of land vacant and available for more housing.

It wants to make the vacant land at Paname Village available for someone else to build more public housing because there is limited public housing in the Masterton district.

To change the use of the vacant land from senior housing to public housing, and to be able to sell or lease the land requires the council to apply to the High Court for an amendment to the Council Scheme.

The High Court application is set to cost from $30k to $40k.

If an amendment is made to the council’s LTP and the High Court modifies the Council Scheme, the council will, as part of the sale or lease process, develop accountability and monitoring arrangements with the relevant parties based on the terms of the Council Scheme and in line with the council’s strategic goals.

Feedback from consultation on the LTP amendment will inform the council’s High Court application.

The cost of infrastructure to enable the land to be made available for public housing development is $1,082,000 [includes $440k for stormwater improvements].

This would be funded from the proceeds of sale or lease of land.

Any surplus or gain on the disposal of the land would be held within the Senior Housing Reserve Fund to be applied to future upgrading of the council’s senior housing stock.

Consultation would run from March 21 to April 26.

The community would also be invited to attend an online workshop to discuss their views of the proposals in the consultation document with elected members.

Council deliberations would be held on May 18 and the LTP amendment would be adopted on June 15.

After this, the High Court application would be progressed. — NZLDR

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