Developers need arms twisted to build affordable homes, hearing told

New figures show the resort is the most expensive place to rent a house in New Zealand. Photo:...
Photo: Guy Williams
Queenstown developers will keep building homes out of reach for most people unless they are forced to fork over for affordable housing, the council has argued.

The comment was in reference to a proposed QLDC plan change which would force developers to contribute 5% of the estimated sales value — either through land or a monetary payment — of new subdivisions to fund construction of affordable housing through the Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust (QLCHT).

Hearings on the proposal began earlier this week.

At the first day of the hearings, economist Shamubeel Eaqub spoke in favour of the proposal on behalf of the council.

The problem was the fact that in Queenstown, 86% of the housing stock was in the top bracket, but only 27% of households had incomes in the top income bracket, he said.

"Inclusionary housing is not a silver bullet. By itself, it will not solve the entire housing crisis.

"Instead, I consider it a useful and workable, complementary policy to overall housing supply to ensure when homes are built, a small portion is affordable, and is retained as affordable, so the stock of affordable homes gradually grows over time."

The first day of the hearings was an opportunity for the QLDC to present its case to the panel, which included commissioner Jan Caunter and commissioner panel Dr Lee Beattie, Jane Taylor and Ken Fletcher.

QLDC strategic planner Amy Bowbyes said the council had taken several strategic measures to address issues surrounding affordable housing.

This included the joint housing action plan with central government, providing land and funds to the QLCHT to be used for developing affordable housing and negotiating with developers to ensure land was available for affordable housing.

"Importantly, the homes [the QLCHT] created are subject to eligibility criteria which means they are targeted for low to moderate incomes and are retained for ongoing use as affordable homes in perpetuity."

Social impact researcher Charlotte Lee said the council had conducted a study on the likely outcome of the proposal.

She said this proposal would produce a "moderate positive impact" for people’s personal and property rights, community cohesion and character and people’s aspirations.

"This is due to the likely increase in affordable housing, providing opportunities for residents of all ages, backgrounds and income levels to remain in the district.

"It has the potential to support a range of people across the housing spectrum."

Legal counsel Nick Whittington, on behalf of the council, told the hearings panel the proposal was separate to issues of land supply for housing, which were also being addressed and discussed at length.

"What it does ensure is that when housing is developed, some of that supply is funnelled towards a part of the market that left to its own devices it simply doesn’t provide for."

Before the hearings, several developers expressed concern about the proposal — the bulk of the 180 submissions are against it.

In a statement on behalf of 10 developers, including Millbrook Country Club and Willowridge Developments Ltd, economics consultant Fraser Colegrave described the proposal as a "blunt, ineffective and inefficient tool".

"While I agree that the district has a chronic housing affordability problem, I expect the proposed policy to make housing less affordable for virtually everyone, except the lucky few helped by the Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust."

The hearings will continue today and tomorrow, and several developers are likely to present their evidence.