Inner city apartment initiative for Capital
Wednesday 7 June 2017
Wellington Council is reaching out to developers
Wellington City Council wants developers to work with them to convert inner city buildings into apartments to rectify the city’s shortage of rental housing.
By Miriam Bell
Horror stories about the problems of finding rental properties in the Capital abound and now the council has decided to act.
Wellington Mayor Justin Lester announced on Wednesday that the council will partner with developers and community housing providers to turn inner-city buildings into apartments.
Lester, who was addressing the Community Housing Association's annual conference, said housing is the biggest issue facing the city right now and it was necessary to take bold action.
“That’s why we’re looking at a new way of providing homes in the central city. Our approach seeks to convert existing underutilised buildings into new apartments.”
“We’ll work with buildings owners and developers who can provide refurbished space. This means we will be able to retrofit existing inner city buildings and turn them into warm, safe, dry apartments.”
This repurposing model is already successfully used by some developers in the creation of hotels or student accommodation.
It allows for much cheaper and faster development than is possible when building new apartments from scratch.
Lester said the council will work with building owners to catalyse development including ensuring long-term leases and fast tracked processes for the project.
“Our aim is for more Wellingtonians to be able to afford to live in the heart of our city. We’ll provide more housing options for people who need it and add vibrancy to our central city.”
To this end, some of the new apartments will be social housing managed by community housing providers while others will be affordable rentals targeted to the lower end of the market.
Deputy Mayor Paul Eagle, who heads the council’s housing portfolio, said the plan is expected to pay for itself over the lifetime of the project.
“Costs will be dependent on the number of housing units we can get developed under the initiative.
“But it is expected that the housing provided will be cost neutral for ratepayers in the long-term, as building owners will pay for the refurbishment and tenants will pay for rents.”
The council will be putting out a request for proposals from developers later this year.
Meanwhile, the council’s move has been greeted positively from many quarters – especially as it comes hot on the heels of rental data showing Wellington’s stock has plummeted over the past year.
According to sources, a number of Wellington developers have expressed interest in the initiative providing there is certainty of rental income.
Wellington Central’s Labour MP, Grant Robertson, said the plan shows that large-scale housing programmes like his party’s KiwiBuild can be achieved with innovative thinking.
“Making it easier for developers to convert under-used inner city buildings to affordable apartments is a good example of the action we need to get more Kiwis into affordable homes.”
His party backs the idea of more affordable inner city housing developments, he said.
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