Waipā looks set to become only the second council after Queenstown to use inclusionary zoning to address concerns around housing costs.

Inclusionary zoning compels developers to make a proportion of houses in residential developments “affordable”. The most common measure of affordability is when a household spends less than 30 per cent of its income on housing.

Waipā District Council’s Strategic Planning and Policy Committee accepted a staff recommendation on Tuesday that the planning tool be proposed for inclusion in the area’s District Plan, which is the rulebook that guides how Waipā develops.

The decision jump-starts a formal Plan Change process specifically aimed at offering more affordable housing in the district.

​Waipā Mayor Susan O’Regan said a draft set of plan provisions provided by the Waikato Housing Initiative (WHI) was a good starting point.

“No one thinks inclusionary zoning will be a panacea, or on its own will solve affordable housing issues in Waipā. But there is a serious problem out there around housing affordability, and we need to do something. This is one pathway we can pursue, and we should do it.”

Susan said inclusionary zoning worked well overseas. She noted Waipā already had the region’s first example of truly affordable housing at the Peake Mews development in Cambridge.

The Bridge Housing Charitable Trust 47-home development was consented last year and offers a variety of options for moving into affordable housing.

“That’s the kind of innovative thinking we’d love to see more of,” Susan said.

“Councils have been calling for nationally mandated inclusionary zoning for some time, but central government has not yet responded. So, we’re responding instead with a District Plan that removes barriers and supports new thinking around housing. We were very pleased to see this staff recommendation come through; now, let’s get cracking.”

WHI chief executive Aksel Bech applauded the council for its leadership.

“WHI wants everyone in the region well-housed, living in sustainable, flourishing and connected communities, but that was a big ask given housing costs,” he said.

“But the reality is that with a median house price in Waipā for the first quarter of this year sitting at close to $827,000, prices are unaffordable for low to moderate-income earners.

“Many families or couples are struggling to rent, let alone save for a deposit.

“Councils don’t have an endless range of tools to use, but this is one powerful lever councils can pull, and I applaud Waipā for taking this step.”

The desperate need for affordable housing in the Waikato has driven a local charitable trust to launch an ambitious development in Cambridge.

The Bridge Housing Charitable Trust, set up by the Brian Perry Charitable Trust, is to develop a brand-new, 47-home community in Cambridge.

Peake Mews will offer affordable, architecturally designed housing in an innovative, vibrant and connected community. The site will include blocks of terraced two and four-bedroom houses, with the master plan to incorporate, gardens and areas for outdoor active recreation.

A handful of the homes will be sold on the open market, but the majority of the rest will be sold through a secured housing model, developed to create an alternative option to home ownership.

The key objective is to create an integrated vibrant neighbourhood, providing secure and healthy homes, compact yet well-designed with great communal spaces.

The outcome: diverse communities with a range of leasehold and freehold models and collaborative partnerships to maximise long-term impact and security for the owners.

Brian Perry Charitable Trust general manager Jennifer Palmer says the Bridge Housing Trust was set up in late 2021 with the sole objective of doing something positive and lasting in the community to help combat the dire housing situation.

“Research carried out by the Waikato Housing Initiative shows the average Waikato house cost more than 17 times the annual minimum wage.

“The number of properties in the hands of investors increased 191 per cent between 1986 and 2018.

“Investors now own over a quarter of the occupied housing stock and the number of entry-level homes in Hamilton (<$500k) dropped from 84 per cent in 2014 to 3 per cent in 2021.”

The objective of Secure Homes is to provide quality, affordable housing, as well as long-term housing stability and security, in the same way that freehold home ownership does.

Jennifer says the concept has proven successful overseas but is relatively new to New Zealand.

“It was, however, successfully implemented by the Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust,” she says.

“The model has been operating successfully there for a number of years, and we have partnered with Queenstown to learn from them.”

The trust has commissioned an award-winning architectural firm to design the community and has partnered with a local building firm, with 20 years’ experience, to carry out construction.

Sacha Webb from Cambridge Real Estate, who is selling the freehold titles, says there’s a real need for affordable housing in Cambridge.

“Like everywhere in New Zealand, we’ve seen a huge increase in house prices and a lot of people have been priced out of the market.

“This is a very exciting venture. The Brian Perry Charitable Trust has carried out some incredible projects in our community, such as the Avantidrome and our new Te Awa River Cycleway.

“These projects are always done to a very high standard and have had a hugely positive impact on our community.

“It’s essential in real estate to look at things differently, so to be on a project that’s creating solutions to address the affordability crisis is extremely rewarding.”

The Bridge Housing Charitable Trust is taking registrations for those interested in applying for the secured home ownership option.

Article extracted from the Herald, 3 August 2023