17 Nov 2012

Affordable homes scheme in Auckland 'laughable'

2:38 pm on 17 November 2012

A housing advocacy group says the Government's strategy to develop more affordable homes in Auckland is laughable.

The Government-supported development at Hobsonville Point will include 600 cheaper homes - but the Housing Lobby says that will not address the real need in Auckland.

The land at Hobsonville Point is owned by the Government and being developed by a company that is a subsidiary of the government agency Housing New Zealand.

Some 3000 homes will be built in the next 10 to 15 years. Ten percent will cost less than $400,000 and another 10% will be under $485,000. Initially, the plan also included 500 state rental homes, but was later scrapped.

Housing Lobby spokesperson Sue Henry says building a few cheaper homes completely misses those most in need and the Hobsonville development needs to reinstate its commitment to the state rental sector.

"Even more houses added to the 500 they were initially going to build there - that's what that should be for. It's Government-public land and it should be used for those people who really need a rental home at an affordable price."

Ms Henry says it is essential that central Government takes a more active role in dealing with the high housing demand in Auckland.

The Green Party says the Government's plan for affordable housing at Hobsonville Point is a lost opportunity.

Housing spokesperson Holly Walker says the houses are neither affordable, nor enough to address the city's housing problems.

Ms Walker says the original plan for the Hobsonville site would have been a good start, as it would have offered affordable housing for first-time buyers as well as new state homes.

However, she says that has been eroded to the point where there will be only expensive houses - with no state housing and no assistance for those entering the market.

Scheme 'doesn't go far enough'

The former director of Hobsonville Land Company says plans to include affordable homes in the scheme do not go far enough.

Gary Taylor, the company's director until four months ago, says if demand is to be met, three developments on the scale of the Hobsonville scheme are needed every year for the next 30 years.

Mr Taylor believes it is critical for the Government to rethink its approach to affordable housing and become more actively involved in building houses - rather than leaving it to the market to satisfy demand.

"The challenge in Auckland is building a lot more houses than we are used to. The market left to its own devices isn't going to deliver them. It's producing about 3000 houses a year - we need 13,000 a year for the next 30 years."

Mr Taylor says local and central governments are going to have to get involved in building houses on a large scale to meet the need in Auckland.

Small can be beautiful - deputy mayor

Some 20% of the houses will cost under $485,000 and are expected to be smaller, terraced-style homes and apartments.

Auckland deputy mayor Penny Hulse says the project will show developers that smaller-sized houses can still make the industry a profit.

"We need to prove to industry that simply building large houses to get a reasonable profit is not the only way to go. You can still build small and beautiful houses and increase your profit that way. So we end up with more affordable houses and we still end up with the industry feeling pleased."

Ms Hulse says the council is working closely with the property sector and central government to develop regulations to encourage similar schemes.