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MDC opens up land at Panama

Panama Village, Ngaumutawa Rd, Masterton. PHOTO/FILE

Masterton District Council has voted to make vacant land at Panama Village available for more public housing, but get someone else to do the building.

Council will work with the government through Kainga Ora, community housing providers, and iwi to establish an appropriate arrangement for a provider, or providers, to fund and build the public housing, a spokesperson said.

The decision was made at Masterton’s long-term plan deliberations last week.

The spokesperson said work would go ahead to raise external funding through funding applications, grants and trusts, partnership arrangements, philanthropic investment, and in-kind donations.

They said the workstream would run in parallel to land acquisition and the design process.

Council was given two options for the land at Panama Village, one being to build 25 units funded by the council, and the other was the option they chose – to have the land developed by an entity outside of council.

Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson said there was a housing crisis right throughout New Zealand, and Masterton was not exempt.

“Housing is quite a passion to me because it is a basic human right that we have adequate shelter,” Patterson said.

“We can’t solve the whole housing crisis as a council – that’s central government’s responsibility.

“We can do what we have always done since the 60s and 70s, which is provide pensioner housing.”

She said to council that it was important they kept their ears open for any opportunity they could for housing.

Councillor Chris Petersen didn’t think the choice for the Panama Village land should be either-or, but a matter of doing both.

“We could probably get started tomorrow if we did it ourselves,” he said.

Petersen said the council should be proud to be involved with senior housing.

Councillor Bex Johnson said she was happy with the recommendation as a start, but didn’t think it went far enough.

“When the land was gifted to the community, it was to accommodate older people or those in need.

“There is a real demand in the younger demographics for people who can’t afford rentals or first homes.”

She thought council should look at supporting other age demographics rather than just seniors, which is who Panama Village currently house.

Government recently announced a $3.8 billion Housing Acceleration Fund aimed at opening up more land for housing development.

The fund could be used to financially support critical infrastructure needed for housing development, particularly in locations close to jobs and amenities, Ministry of Housing and Urban Development [MHUD] said.

MHUD hoped the fund would allow for a wider mix of affordable housing for low- to moderate-income households to own or rent.

An MDC staff member said at the meeting that access to that funding could make developing Panama Village more attractive to parties outside of council.

Details for the eligibility criteria to access money from the infrastructure fund is set to be announced in June.

The option chosen by council would need High Court approval, the MDC agenda said.

“Since council adopted the options for consultation, we have become aware of a community housing provider having a successful outcome when taking a similar request to the High Court.

This gives greater confidence that a request for High Court approval to lease the land would be approved.”

Council will ratify their long-term plan on June 30.

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