Private sector urged to help

Arrowtown regional economist Benje Patterson. PHOTO: ARCHIVE
Arrowtown regional economist Benje Patterson. PHOTO: ARCHIVE
Arrowtown-based regional economist Benje Patterson says while the pressure has come off Queenstown’s rental housing market slightly compared to six or 12 months ago, the "litmus test" is imminent.

Patterson says the rental accommodation market’s "still incredibly tight", but believes it’s been helped by employers taking on leases for their staff, or buying properties for use as staff accommodation.

"The litmus test is going to be when we get towards winter ... to see whether the stories of people that are just making do [and] sleeping in their cars rears its head again."

While he’s elated to see the progress on Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust’s largest-scale housing development to date — Arrowtown’s Tewa Banks, which could house about 10% of Arrowtown’s workforce — he’s calling on others with deep pockets to think seriously about the future of the resort.

"I look to those in the private sector, looking to [build] worker accommodation-type complexes, and I think it’s really important for those in council, those with deep pockets that are perhaps institutional investors with multi-generational outlooks, to look favourably at those and think, ‘what could this do for the long term of this town if the investment we make, or the investment we enable, can allow long-term secure tenure for workers?’

"That gives our employers the sort of people they need and knowing they’ll be housed without having to go and make the individual investment at a business level themselves.

"If you put yourself in the position of someone who owns a small retail outlet or a small cafe and then suddenly having to think about stumping up and becoming a commercial landlord, essentially, they’re having to take on ownership of an asset that might be worth a lot more than their underlying business.

"That’s quite a high cost to pay, from a capital perspective, but also from a skills basis — having to navigate tenancy laws is quite challenging for some."

Another challenge is the "short-term prize of capital gain", he says, given many don’t think about longer-term, potentially lower-yielding investments, but "stable, cashed-based returns from leasing things out".

There also needs to be a way to ensure those types of developments remain available with the types of tenure envisaged when first constructed, like for renters, as opposed to having them built, sold off and then used for a "completely different purpose" once the owner sees they’ve appreciated a lot in value, he says.

 

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