28 Jul 2017

Plan to build 50 affordable homes in New Plymouth

7:20 pm on 28 July 2017

A charitable organisation is hoping to buy 21 derelict Housing New Zealand properties in New Plymouth and build more than 50 affordable homes in their place.

One of the units on Discovery Place in Marfell, New Plymouth that is to be demolished.

In Marfell, 28 state homes have already been demolished. Photo: RNZ/Robin Martin

The Bishop's Action Foundation wants to redevelop three hectares of the Marfell suburb where dozens of State homes have been removed and others left to rot - but not everyone is convinced by the plan.

In 2008, 28 Housing New Zealand properties were demolished in the neighbourhood and in 2012, 20 families were forced to move out to make way for a redevelopment that never happened.

Last year, those buildings left standing were vandalised when opportunists stripped them of anything of worth.

Now the Bishop's Action Foundation, an offshoot of the Anglican church, wants to build two- and three-bedroom homes in the area for people with household incomes of between $70,000 and $90,000.

The new homes will be sold for about $320,000 each.

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Bishop's Action Foundation CEO Simon Cayley. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Foundation CEO Simon Cayley said research it commissioned found that the housing crisis in Taranaki was more about affordability rather than availability.

"Over the last 10 years we found that there had been a 40 percent increase in the number of 40-year-olds renting instead of owning.

"We also found out that there had been over an 80 percent increase in the number of people paying $350 a week or more in rent.

"And we found out that there were over a 1000 families paying more than 50 percent of their household income on housing, which is unsustainable."

Mr Cayley said the foundation set up registered charity Catalyst Housing to help grow the affordable housing market in Taranaki.

Catalyst had been talking to Housing New Zealand for several months about its ideas for Marfell, he said.

"We've been looking and we think the site in Marfell could take around 50, 56 new family homes and we're not talking high density here.

"We're not talking three- to four-storeys, we're talking three-bed family homes put on that site. But it's a negotiation at the moment."

Mr Cayley said there was no social housing component in the current proposal, but a rent-to-buy option could be included.

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Community Housing Action Taranaki trustee Mary Allen. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Community Housing Action Taranaki trustee Mary Allen said it welcomed the plan but not without reservations.

"Well I think it's fantastic that there's going to be good quality houses but the affordable name tag I'm not so sure about.

"They might be affordable for some people but the people who will be unable to get onto the property ladder will always be asking where are the affordable rentals?"

Ms Allen said many of the people the emergency housing trust dealt with couldn't save enough for a deposit for a home.

"I would like to see some social housing in here that people can afford to rent, maybe rent-to-buy.

"I'm talking about people who might be on benefits that are less than $20,000 a year some of them. They've got so little to go on they just can't make ends meet."

Volunteer barista at the Marfell community cafe, Jason Monsall, also believed there should be a housing component in the plan.

"It's land that has been used for social housing and we're encountering housing shortages in the country.

"Yeah so I'd like to see the government taking responsibility rather than passing it off onto a private organisation and stepping up to the mark and saying 'hey, we'll house our people'."

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Daniel Pue Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Daniel Pue, who lives in a private rental in the affected area with his partner and two children, said the proposed development could give the neighbourhood a boost.

"It will be good to have a few more houses around. Other than that there's a big grass patch here that's doing nothing, no park on it.

"It would be good for the kids. This fella over here he's got a lot of kids, that fella over there's he's got heaps of kids.

"There's a lot of kids around here so it would be nice if heaps more people could come down here and start living."

Mr Cayley said if the proposal went ahead there was no reason why Marfell could not flourish.

"If you look at its location, its bus service, it's close to town, it's got a fantastic kindergarten, a great school.

"If you put the families back into that community you would start to see it thrive and I think the other thing we should remember is that there is a community in Marfell that has remained loyal to it and have stayed there, it's not that Marfell itself is a problem."

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Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Housing New Zealand said it had 965 properties in New Plymouth, including 139 in Marfell, and although 50 were vacant it said it was well placed to meet the demand for social housing in the area.

It said in the year to 30 June it had housed 125 families in the city off the Ministry of Social Development's Social Housing Register.

Catalyst Housing was due to meet with the Housing New Zealand next month when it hoped to nail down a deal.