​The first affordable housing neighbourhood has opened near Cambridge and it’s a game changer according to its developers. Senior writer Mary Anne Gill was there and talked to residents.

Life changing. That’s how Yan Zhung described moving into her own house in Peake Mews west of Cambridge with husband Jiong Xu and their family. A series of rental properties marked their new life in New Zealand since they arrived from China a decade ago but now they and seven other families have the keys to properties in a complex developed by the Brian Perry Charitable Trust. They were guests of honour at the opening last month of the first affordable housing neighbourhood in the Waikato.

Home, sweet home: from left Jiong Xu, Jonathan and Hayley Buckley, Glen Lewis, Yan Zhung, Cynthia Watson, Audrey and Pierre Scheepers, Faye, Lyra, 5, and Brendan Walpole.

Another – Hinemoa, an apartment style development – will open in central Hamilton later this year. Bridge Housing is an initiative started by the Brian Perry Charitable Trust which donated $4 million worth of affordable housing in Cambridge and a similar amount in Hamilton. Chair Simon Perry told Waikato Business News the affordable housing initiative was a “game changer” and ensured families had access to healthy and affordable housing. “This is all about a liveable, affordable and sustainable community,” said Perry. “Now that we have our first runs on the board and have demonstrated what can be delivered through meaningful partnerships, we are even more determined to expand this initiative across the region.”

There will be 60-70 houses at the Peake Road site developed over four to five phases. Cambridge architect Antanas Procuta developed the master plan for the development creating community spaces to get the right density. “Our goal is all about making these smart, making them nice, but making them smaller, not having the garages and some of those expensive kit pieces to them and being smart about the developments.”

The secret to the affordable housing model – or Secure Homes as Bridge Housing has termed it – is the mixture of leasehold and freehold land. Buyers can opt to lease the land and own the house, reducing the cost by as much as half. The model is supported by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development’s Progressive Home Ownership fund, which provided a significant interest-free loan to Bridge Housing. Secure Homes is underpinned by backing from Westpac NZ, the official lender to the houses. The model is similar to one created by the Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust. Trustee Peter Southwick, also a trustee in Bridge Housing, said he had been involved with both from the beginning.

The Waikato initiative happened because of the Perry family trust. “They’re a very modest bunch but without them and the charitable trust, none of this would have happened,” he said. “This will enable a lot of affordable housing in the Waikato. “To those who had had the guts to buy a place here, especially those who have taken on the leasehold model, it’s a bit scary I know but it’s a proven formula and we know it works,” said Southwick. “We’re very proud of what we’ve done here. To see eight families shift in, it really means something and I feel very privileged to be part of it.”

“Peake Mews is an example of what’s possible when affordability, security and community converge. We don’t want to lose momentum and are keen to speak with anyone who has an interest in being part of the solution to this enormous problem,” Perry told The News.

Photos: Mary Anne Gill.

Article extracted from Waikato Business News on 11 January 2024