Economist: progress made in housing area

There is no quick fix for Queenstown’s housing affordability problem, but the district’s council is heading in the right direction, a high-profile economist says.

Shamubeel Eaqub  will be a panellist at the Catalyst Trust’s affordable housing forum in the resort on August 30.

He will be joined by housing minister Phil Twyford and Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust chairman Martin Hawes to discuss the topic "Can we ever fix Queenstown’s housing crisis?"

Mr Eaqub said the district seemed to have made progress since he spoke at a similar event three years ago.

The Queenstown Lakes District Council was "speaking with a much stronger voice" to the Government in its bid for more infrastructure funding.

It would also need to set a clear direction with its district planning, encourage higher-density housing, good transport connections, build-to-rent programmes and worker accommodation.

But residents should not expect rapid results, he warned.

"It’s a very long-term project. The context is it’s the result of 40 years of neglect, so you shouldn’t expect any quick turnaround.

"If there’s a really big fall in house prices, it’ll probably be because something terrible’s happened in the economy, and that’s not how we want houses to become more affordable."

He made a submission opposing the Government’s ban on foreign buyers — passed into law this week — because it would have "unintended consequences" of limiting foreign investment in new housing development.

"Any policy that gets in the way of actually building houses, in my book, is not going to help."

Veteran Queenstown property developer David Broomfield said he had not been invited to the forum, and was sceptical of "talk-fests".

The previous council was handed a golden opportunity to tackle the crisis with special housing areas, but messed it up, Mr Broomfield said.

"The council didn’t have the nous, or their staff didn’t, to covenant the land for the purpose it was meant for — to sell to first-home buyers.

"Instead, all the speculators got in and had a field day."

The council badly needed more government funding for basic infrastructure, and the Resource Management Act had to be replaced with something better enabling residential development.

The council should use its controlling interest in Queenstown Airport to limit growth in tourist numbers, which was driving the district’s unsustainable population growth, he said.

Catalyst Trust chairwoman Cath Gilmour said the forum was a chance for the community to get an update on progress made so far, the next steps required, and to get an understanding of affordable housing in the national context.

Catalyst Trust affordable housing forum, Queenstown Memorial Centre, August 30, 7-8.30pm, registration required.

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