Five-star student flats on the way

The days of students freezing through the winter in dingy Dunedin digs could be on the way out, with the development of a new "star rating", system similar to that used by hotels and motels.

The system is still in the planning stages, but the institutions putting it together hope to have it under way by 2011.

The poor condition of some Dunedin student housing has been an issue for years but the new scheme could help change that.

The initiative was developed under the tertiary precinct development plan, officially put in place in October last year when a memorandum of understanding was signed by representatives of the Dunedin City Council, University of Otago and Otago Polytechnic.

The plan set out a series of actions for each organisation to complete so better use could made of resources, duplication of services could be reduced, and action could be planned for issues such as development, housing, transport, the environment and infrastructure.

Today, the city council finance and strategy committee will discuss a report on the plan, which seeks agreement on one part of that work, a joint venture for quality ratings for flats.

The report said the vision of the scheme was that "all students will have access to affordable, sustainable and good-quality housing appropriate to their needs".

It was based on a scheme working successfully in the United Kingdom, deputy mayor Syd Brown said last night .

Over the Christmas holiday period, two University of Otago planning students assessed housing in the campus area, examining the roofing, fencing, vehicle access and exteriors of 1500 properties.

More work was now needed to assess where problem areas were.

The report says the scheme would include self-accreditation from property owners on property condition, a star rating calculated by the university, and a website with ratings details.

A random sample of properties would be audited regularly to ensure the appropriateness of ratings.

Cr Brown said the scheme needed the "buy-in" of landlords and property investors.

"What we have in Dunedin is a lot of absentee landlords," he said.

They were keen to "see the money roll", but were not always as keen on keeping properties in good condition.

"The working party doesn't want to come down with a big stick - we want to take them with us."

The scheme would not be in place for next year, but could be operating by 2011.

The report said $4000 was needed annually to maintain and promote the scheme.

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