Spotlight put on sites for city housing developments

Press Release – Sustainable Cities

Release: Spotlight put on sites for city housing developments Leading architects with a commitment to construction of more social and affordable housing in New Zealand met with developers, government officials, academics and community advocates at a …29 June 2012

Release: Spotlight put on sites for city housing developments

Leading architects with a commitment to construction of more social and affordable housing in New Zealand met with developers, government officials, academics and community advocates at a one-off national workshop attended by 80 people in Wellington yesterday.

Convened by the NZ Centre for Sustainable Cities [LINK http://sustainablecities.org.nz] the one day workshop put a spotlight on three parcels of available land that had been previously identified for potential partnership projects in Auckland (Avondale), Wellington (Newtown) and Christchurch (Sydenham).

After a morning of context setting – including a presentation about results from the Social Housing Outcomes Worth (SHOW) study – the afternoon saw groups split off for discussions about how best to get housing projects off the ground at each of the identified sites.

Those discussions were focused on actual site plans and facilitated by input from representatives from local councils, iwi and Housing New Zealand Corporation.

The advantages and barriers for each site were debated, before also arriving at potential solutions that would support more collaboration, confront old ideas head-on and tackle tough issues such as funding.

At the end of the day the nominated Christchurch site – described as a “residential island in a commercial precinct” on the fringe of the former CBD – was widely supported as the leading contender for developing a potential “exemplar” for a desirable, mixed use, multi-functioning neighbourhood.

Tony Moore of Christchurch City Council said it was hoped development of the site would act as a stimulus for the city. “We take a lot from the points raised today and thinking ‘outside the block’. For a start we need to understand the needs of the people who would want to live there. Models like co-housing and ideas like having a champion for the project and the importance of upfront design all add to our thinking”.

An electronic polling system used in the plenary workshop threw up some interesting results on big picture issues. Medium or high density developments were favoured where possible, as was a call to mandate a requirement for a 20-30% proportion of affordable housing or tenure type in all new developments.

Facilitator Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman was encouraged by the success of the workshop in identifying partnership potential, with 39% of participants signaling they were actively involved in partnerships already and a further third showing interest in moving in that direction.

“We’d like to think this is the beginning of a groundswell for a new era of housing development. We certainly have all the evidence and reports we need about the long-term benefits and major public cost savings directly associated with better housing. What we learnt today is that we don’t have enough opportunities yet, in forums like this, to collaborate more deliberately.

“Given the commitment shown to developing just the three sites put on the table today, the real challenge is to take action on innovative models of affordable housing that we can scale up to meet national need.

“As noted today, it is hard to get this kind of breadth of stakeholders into the same room, but working together we can do so much more than our individual, and often voluntary, efforts”.

Perhaps the most telling remarks of the day were made by Christian Stearn, a US federal government official who is in New Zealand on an Ian Axford Fellowship in Public Policy.

Since arriving in the country in January, Mr Stearn had been taken aback by the lack of examples of sustainable affordable housing. “In my role (in the US) I’m more used to taking more of an advocacy role when it comes to promoting housing policy and partnership principles”.

Mr Stearn noted that although there is a welter of public documents about infrastructure and social housing in New Zealand there appears to be “no strategy right now”.

He suggested that it would be worthwhile thinking of housing alongside the approach to roading expenditure, ending with the proposition that having some ‘Housing Projects of National Significance’ on the go might not be a bad idea.

ENDS

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