Plans to tackle Queenstown housing crisis

A mayoral taskforce set up to tackle unaffordable housing in the Queenstown Lakes district wants 1000 affordable homes to be made available for lower-income households by 2028.

Jim Boult
Jim Boult

After six months’ work, the taskforce yesterday released a 32-page report with a series of recommendations aimed at solving what is widely regarded as the district’s most intractable issue.

Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult, who set up the taskforce,  said the report offered "aspirational but practical" solutions.

It had come up with two new models of housing ownership — one believed to be a national first — that could make a "significant difference" without dragging down property values. Mr Boult  would urge councillors to accept the report at their meeting on Thursday.

He would also send a copy to incoming prime minister Jacinda Ardern. Taskforce chairman and councillor John MacDonald said waiting for the housing market to correct itself had not worked, and the council had to take action.

"People have already been forced out of our district by the lack of secure, quality, affordable housing, and we want to do whatever we can to ensure this doesn’t continue."

The goal of 1000 affordable homes, which applied to apartments and duplexes as well as stand-alone houses, could be achieved through two new ownership models: the "Secure Home" and "Shared Home Equity Product" schemes; and a beefed-up version of the Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust’s  existing affordable rental programme.

Mr MacDonald said the taskforce regarded the Secure Home scheme as holding the most promise;  it had been a  success in Whistler, Canada.

The scheme separated the land and house so lower-income households could afford to buy a home while renting the land it sat on,  in perpetuity, for a "nominal" amount.

Banks had already indicated to the taskforce they could  offer loans to  build homes under the scheme.

Taskforce member and housing trust executive officer Julie Scott said there could be initial resistance to the idea but with  "education"  she was confident households would prefer the scheme  to paying $750 per week in rent or trying to buy a house for $800,000.

The report states the Shared Home Equity Product required more investigation into its "risks and rewards", but urged the council to study it further.

Housing affordability and availability is at historic lows in the district. The median house price ($920,000) is nearly 12 times the district’s median annual household income. The council’s latest rating valuations show residential capital values have increased more than 63% since the previous revaluation in 2014. Residential land values rose more than 90%.

The taskforce consists of the mayor and two councillors, council staff and high-profile people from inside and outside the district with expertise in finance, law, construction, architecture, real estate, community housing and tourism..

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