10 Jul 2018

Homeless will move into 80 of 280 units in new HNZ development

From Checkpoint, 5:53 pm on 10 July 2018

The Housing Minister has unveiled the details of plans to replace a Housing New Zealand high-rise in Auckland's central city with a new 'state of the art' housing unit. 
Plans to demolish the Greys Ave high-rise and replace it with 280 new units were announced in March - but today, Housing Minister Phil Twyford confirmed it was actually going ahead. 

The building at 139 Greys Ave in central Auckland will be demolished next year - and will be replaced by a new unit, for a mix of people across a range of incomes.

Mr Twyford stressed the need for quality housing to be provided for those sleeping rough in the country's biggest city. 

"If we're serious as a city, and as a country, about taking a compassionate approach for people who are in that situation, then it's vital for Auckland that we provide high quality housing here in the city centre and so that's been a big part of the thinking behind this development," Mr Twyford said. 

While the overall cost of the project is still unknown, Housing New Zealand says a minimum of $100,000,000 will come from its pocket, but the total cost could be more than $200,000,000. 

The complex will feature 280 apartments, and on-site health and support services.  

Up to 80 of the new units will be allocated to homeless people living on the streets of Auckland and the other 200 will be a mix of state housing and public rentals. 

Mr Twyford was confident the mix of state and private units would not put people off from living there. 

"It's a beautifully designed living environment right here in the central city and there's a huge unmet demand for affordable, good quality, accommodation - so I'm very confident that mix will work fine," Mr Twyford said. 

The original emerald green letter boxes, installed when the building opened in 1957, still sits by the door. They are dented, rusting, hanging off walls. 

The two elevators in the building creak and groan as they move up and down, and the custard paint is faded and grimy. 

Architecture commentator Jeremy Hansen said the state housing complex is a 'great old building' and an important piece of New Zealand's architectural history, designed by government architect of the time, Gordon Wilson.

However, he felt torn about the decision to go ahead with plans to demolish the building.

"This is a fantastic building that I believe should be a heritage structure, by Gordon Wilson that's being torn down," Mr Hansen said.

"But, the mixed feelings because this is exactly the kind of housing development Auckland and the rest of New Zealand needs a lot more of so, it's really difficult to oppose the provision of more, good quality social housing."

Housing New Zealand said it considered this when finalising details for the site. 

However, Housing New Zealand principal advisor Scott Foley said it was an opportunity they could not miss.

"To think that if we didn't redevelop this building, we couldn't house hundreds more people on this site would be a real shame," Mr Foley said.

"We looked at a couple of options and to be able to build an extra couple of hundred units on this site and house lots more people who need housing, in a way which really supports them to achieve goals that they set for themselves is a great opportunity."

The 60 tenants that live in the building were told yesterday of their home's ill fate.

They have until the end of February next year to relocate, and will have the option of moving back in once the new building is ready. 

Work on the development is expected to begin shortly afterwards and is set to be completed by the end of 2021.