Christchurch Council Agrees to Tackle Housing Crisis

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014
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Christchurch City Council has taken a further step toward tackling the city’s crippling housing affordability crisis, ratifying an agreement which will see it work with the national government to resolve the city’s housing shortage.

In an announcement on September 11, Christchurch Deputy Mayor Vicki Buck said the city had ratified its  Christchurch Housing Accord, under which the government and the council will tip $NZ75 million and $NZ50 million respectively into a new fund to build an extra 450 homes on land at Awatea and Carrs Road in Hornby as well as at Welles and Colombo Streets in the city.

Christchurch’s social housing stock will be leased to a new entity which will work with the government to ensure it gains eligibility for government subsidies.

Despite a significant construction boom and government efforts to create temporary accommodation villages, the city has suffered from a crisis in housing affordability since the Canterbury Earthquake wiped out around 13,000 homes in early 2011.

Recent media reports suggest the nation’s housing stock will not return to pre-quake levels for another three years, while the latest Census figures showed that more than 25,000 residents are living in crowded houses and that the number of people living in mobile homes or makeshift shelters has risen by 700 since the quake.

The cost of shelter, meanwhile, is rising, with average rents having soared from $NZ311 in August 2011 to $NZ420 last month and house prices being up by more than a quarter over the past five years.

Furthermore, both the council and the government say the city’s social housing stock was not financially viable even before the earthquakes, and that the new arrangements would help address this without the need for rent increases or rate subsidies because the new entity – as a registered community housing provider – would be eligible for government subsidies.

Buck said the new arrangements would help provide a stable future for social housing tenants whilst acting as a catalyst for the provision of new housing within the city.

“Housing is one of this Council’s top priorities, and we’re committed to making sure community members have access to quality, affordable housing now and in the long-term,” she said.

Though cautioning there was no magic solution to the crisis, New Zealand Housing Minister Nick Smith said the new accord would help speed up recovery efforts, and would build on other measures such as a $1.2 billion investment program to redevelop 5,000 existing homes and build 700 new ones.

Still, residents and businesses remain frustrated at the pace of the city’s overall recovery.

In a survey earlier this year by the New Zealand Council for Infrastructure Development, a number of major bank and construction and engineering firms accused the Council and the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority of holding back the rebuild and called for CERA to be replaced by an independent board.

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