14 May 2021

Christchurch CBD dwelling goal 'unrealistic', councillor says

11:31 am on 14 May 2021

Christchurch's plan to have 20,000 people living in the city centre within the next few years looks increasingly set to fail.

Christchurch CBD.

Christchurch CBD. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The latest official figures show the Central Business District's population hovering at around 7000, stubbornly lower than before the earthquakes struck more than a decade ago.

The council has an ambitious target to nearly triple the current number in the CBD by 2028. It is a revised date, as its initial goal was to have 20,000 people in the city centre by 2024.

Christchurch's longest serving city councillor Yani Johanson said even the revised goal isn't realistic.

"No, I don't think that target's going to be met," he said.

"Certainly, if you looked at the pre-earthquake figures of population growth within the central city, there were targets set back then as well and you know, the population growth in the central city just did not justify having that level of target."

Before the earthquakes, it was estimated around 8000 people lived within the four avenues that encircle Christchurch's city centre.

The latest figures from Stats NZ last year, estimates that only around 7170 people now live in the CBD.

But homes are being built in the area - 402 in the last year.

Johanson believed too many of those new developments go to short-term tenancies like Airbnb - a trend only eased by Covid-19.

Yani Johanson

Yani Johanson. Photo: Supplied

"Without Covid-19, I think the central city would have been struggling in terms of residential properties, but obviously with Covid-19 there's been such a massive demand on properties," he said.

Johanson said the post-quake rebuild should have allocated land for new housing west of Cathedral Square, across from the Avon River.

He said that would have made central city living more attractive.

Johanson said the rebuild should have also promoted the inner suburbs, on the edges of the CBD for greater growth.

Property developer Miles Yeoman said another mistake was letting one company, Fletcher Living, build the East Frame residential project.

The 900 home development is still ongoing and he said it would be done by now if multiple contractors were involved.

"I think there were like four supersize lots, that ran along the East Frame, to the east of Manchester Street," he said.

"From my perspective, it would have been good to see four different developers competing and getting stuck in. And I think it probably would have been done and finished by now if that was the case."

Yeoman also doesn't think 20,000 residents by 2028 can happen.

But there are those who see it differently.

Investor Richard Peebles recently launched a project with developer Mike Greer to build 110 homes in the CBD.

"If we need circa another 13,000 people, I guess that's what 6000 or 7000 homes. So what are we talking, about 800 to 1000 a year. I think it's achievable," he said.

"I wouldn't at all be surprised if over the next couple of years we are at more than 1000 homes consented."

Peebles said the city does need a better range of homes, instead of just small apartments.

But he wasn't too worried about properties being snapped up just to be used as Airbnbs.

Peebles said having short-term accommodation for visitors isn't a bad thing, because it will create a busy and bustling CBD.

He said it's all about having the right mix.

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