8 Oct 2020

Keen interest in Marfell KiwiBuild homes, but locals remain sceptical

12:01 pm on 8 October 2020

A steady stream of potential buyers - along with the merely curious - have taken advantage of the first open homes at the KiwiBuild project in the New Plymouth suburb of Marfell.

Bernie Webb was impressed by the KiwiBuild properties in Marfell.

Bernie Webb was impressed by the KiwiBuild properties in Marfell. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Seventeen of 68 properties are now on the market and five are already under contract.

But neighbours of the development in one of the city's poorest areas remain sceptical about the project's merits.

Built on land where dozens of neglected state houses were demolished in 2008 forcing about 20 families from their homes and where yet more were bulldozed in 2017, it is hoped the $23 million Discovery Development will rejuvenate the neighbourhood.

Priced at between $400,000 and $450,000, the well-appointed and fully-insulated three or four homes attracted about 50 groups over the weekend.

Harcourt's Discovery Development coordinator Mike Powell.

Mike Powell thinks the houses are fantastic value. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Harcourts project co-ordinator Mike Powell said with the median house price in New Plymouth sitting at $500,000, the new homes were an attractive option for many.

"Price-wise I think they are just fantastic really. I mean $400,000 for a three bedroom property like this, brand new with all the features is really good buying on a comparative basis.

"About $400,000 now in New Plymouth central anyway is just about a starting level price and you're talking about quite a bit older property perhaps without the insulation and certainly not with double glazing."

The median house price in Marfell, however is just $350,000.

Not that 33-year-old Brooke Edwards was letting that put him off.

"I think it's good, a good opportunity for first home buyers and it's nice and fresh."

Edwards was thinking of buying to help create a little bit of stability for his daughter.

He wasn't too concerned about the neighbourhood's chequered past.

"I would never have thought about buying in Marfell before but now it's a different take on the area. The development is a nice freshen up for the area and it gives the area a second chance."

Leanne Northcott reckoned the homes looked great.

Leanne Northcott was checking one of the houses out for her children. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Leanne Northcott had other motivations.

"Probably looking around for my kids because I mean at the moment New Plymouth is so expensive even the sections are going for $500,000 round where we live they are."

She was impressed with the fittings.

"Oh it's nice and new, eh. They've got to be good when they're new. Nice and warm. Good view. I like the views. The views are really good from here."

The first 17 of 68 KiwiBuild homes have gone on the market at Marfell.

The first 17 of 68 KiwiBuild homes have gone on the market at Marfell. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Bernie Webb was also looking on behalf of adult children.

"There's plenty of room for an average family. I was a bit sort of concerned that these new houses would be like they are in the UK where you've got about three inches around you, but they're quite good.

"And the carparking looks pretty good too. You haven't got a garage but you've got off road parking, so yeah I'm quite impressed."

Webb had given the area a bit of thought.

"This area Marfell has got a bit of a bad name, you only need to look at that house over there for instance, so coming into this area people will be thinking about that.

"But if you get enough new people coming in it won't be long before you change the way people think and the ratbags will move off hopefully."

Former state house are still pockmarked around the development.

Former state house are still pockmarked around the development. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Neighbours of the development still have reservations about whether the properties will sell.

Jeanette had lived in a standalone weatherboard home on Discovery Place for 32 years.

"I'll be very surprised if they sell them all. People that know the area won't buy them. A lot of people just don't like Marfell."

She was not convinced the development would give the area a boost.

"Maybe... I won't hold my breath."

The design of the new properties was not to Jeanette's liking either.

"I wouldn't buy one. I definitely wouldn't buy them. Being elderly I wouldn't want two storeys anyway and they're too close together. You'll be living in each other's pockets."

The first 17 of 68 KiwiBuild properties at Marfell have gone on the market.

The first 17 of 68 KiwiBuild properties at Marfell have gone on the market. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Tina Barnes has lived on Bank Street since she was 10.

She had different concerns.

"I think it's good and doing the community well, but I think what they are asking for them is a bit out of the price range especially for us low income earners. It doesn't give us the opportunity to buy them and become stable ourselves, so we have to stay in the private sector and keep renting."

Barnes was excited at the prospect of getting new neighbours.

"Yeah nervous at the same time too though because you don't know who you're going to get, but you know since they've had the open homes there's been a lot of interest so that's a positive thing."

She was also not convinced they would all sell.

"I'm bit yeah nah, you know, awesome homes but for a lot of people it's the location. Even though they have the view they have, it's still the stigma that the area has."

KiwiBuild homes are available to New Zealand citizens, or residents, who earn less than $120,000 or $180,000 for couples.

Buyers must live at the property for at least three years.

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