Act amended for housing accord

The Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Act has been changed to enable the Government to enter into a Housing Accord with Queenstown, which has the potential to increase the supply of houses and reduce their cost in the Queenstown Lakes district.

The council will now work with the Government to draft an accord and once finalised it would investigate ways to increase the housing supply to meet the housing targets.

Various potential approaches will be investigated in the Lakes district - those could include the creation of ''Special Housing Areas'' which would give developers an alternative resource consenting process to that provided under the Resource Management Act and could enable a faster and less expensive consenting process.

Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith made the announcement yesterday, following a meeting in Queenstown last month with Queenstown Lakes Mayor Vanessa van Uden.

''Queenstown has a median house price of $664,000 and the district is one of the five least-affordable housing areas in the country,'' Dr Smith said.

''I am keen to explore how we can address these challenges through a collaborative approach between the council and the Government.''

Ms van Uden said while the district area enjoyed ''spectacular growth'' it had come at a cost.

In the Lakes district, a mortgage repayment for a median-priced house was 93.9% of the median weekly take-home pay, she said.

''Approximately half of our property owners live outside the district and our huge appeal as a destination creates an affordability problem for the local community that the council is committed to working with the Government to improve.''

The council had tried to address the issue several ways, including establishing a community housing trust to provide affordable houses to low and medium-income families and changing the district plan which allowed the council to have ''favourable regard'' to developments which included provision for residential dwellings for local workers as part of a wider development.

However, there was still ''not enough residential land coming into the market for development''.

''The mechanisms under this Act have the potential to increase the housing supply and, in turn, reduce the cost of houses.''

The Housing Accords and Special Areas Act 2013 allows for districts with significant housing affordability issues to be scheduled, and for the local council and the Government to subsequently enter into formal negotiation of a housing accord.

The Government has already agreed accords with councils in Auckland and Christchurch, and negotiations are under way in Wellington and Bay of Plenty.

Dr Smith said ''good progress'' had been made under the Auckland housing accord, which had a focus on fast-tracking housing developments.

However, the housing issues in each area were different and there was no ''one-size-fits-all'' approach.

''Queenstown is unique in the high number of homes that are owned for holiday purposes and the high demand from people working in the tourism and hospitality industries, who tend to be on lower incomes.

"There is also little land close to the town centre that can be easily developed for housing.

''These are some of the issues that will need to be carefully considered,'' he said.