Bid to tackle high real estate prices

People struggling to afford property in Central Otago could soon get help, courtesy of a group set up to address the problem of high real estate prices.

The Central Otago Affordable Housing Group, established in early 2008, was last week granted $5000 to set up a charitable trust or other legal entity.

The group had applied to the Central Otago District Council for funds and support to start implementing its plans.

Group member Kate Scott, of Alexandra, said by national standards Central Otago was an expensive place to buy a house, and globally New Zealand was one of the most expensive places to do so - based on house prices and incomes.

Central Otago's future was to a degree dependent on young families moving to the district and building communities, and affordable housing had to be available for that to happen, she said.

The group's nine members were united in the view affordable housing was a major issue for the district.

Ms Scott, managing director of BTW South, a surveying and planning company based in Cromwell, said the Queenstown Lakes District Council had implemented a plan to address a lack of affordable housing and it was possible Central Otago could join forces with the neighbouring district or adopt some of its proposals.

The result could be greater opportunities for funding if both areas united in a common cause, along with access to work the QLDC had already done, she said.

Ms Scott said the council needed to be involved for the group to be able to achieve its goals, and once a legal entity had been established in the first quarter of 2010, it was envisioned the council's ongoing relationship with the group would be confirmed.

Such support could include input from staff, and it was hoped other organisations would also be involved to achieve a "whole-of-community approach", she said.

Tentative plans included a cost-sharing programme under which those who met criteria were able to enter into an arrangement with the council or a trust, which would pay a proportion of the property cost as an investor.

Cr Gordon Stewart accepted the need for affordable housing but warned of potential consequences if initiatives affected the housing market.

"If you took 20 homes out of the lower end of the market in Cromwell, for example, you are actually going to lift it 10% for those who miss out on any programme.

"I wonder whether it would be better to establish more block accommodation like caravan parks," he said.

Ms Scott said a range of options was preferable, all of which would have been carefully considered.

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