State housing agency Kāinga Ora has requested two prime Whangārei CBD sites so that it can build high-rise apartments.
The Crown agency presented to the Whangārei District Council on Tuesday, the first meeting since Kāinga Ora – Homes and Communities was established in 2019, replacing Housing NZ and KiwiBuild.
Chief executive Andrew McKenzie and Northland director Jeff Murray outlined their Te Tai Tokerau Regional Plan, which includes building 235 homes over the next three years.
To help achieve that goal, Kāinga Ora plans to purchase two council-owned lots for apartment development: the Vinery Lane parking lot and an empty lot at 10 Dent St, Murray said.
* There is no single solution to the housing crisis, innovative build-to-rents are needed
* Homeless woman with terminal illness gets hit to complete bucket list
* Violence and battles on Whangārei’s shared path take care of users, patrons
The agency has not yet decided how the apartments will be used, but it is likely to be a mix of social housing and housing sold at market price.
Both locations are close to the shared Kamo trail, within walking distance of schools, support services and supermarkets, and close to jobs, he said.
“With car parking, a suggestion could be to reinvest elsewhere in a parking building.”
The suggestion to buy the two top sites garnered a range of responses from elected members, from alarm to support.
Councilor Vince Cocurullo said the two sites are better suited for commercial development than residential.
“How can you justify this when there are other areas in Northland that actually need housing,” he asked.
Councilor Phil Halse said the Vinery Lane car park is essential for the nearby courthouse and court of justice, while the Dent St site is for a potential hotel.
Nearby government-owned land, including Rugby Park and University of Auckland land, would be more suitable, he said.
“I would hate to see our court operating without parking spaces on that site…I find it alarming that you are upsetting a lot of people.”
But Councilor Ken Couper acknowledged that the presentation is at a high level at this stage and that the council should continue the conversation.
“We can’t deny that there is a need for houses and, second, we can’t get mad if we have policies to increase housing development in the inner city and then get mad when people come over and do it.”
Mayor Sheryl Mai said that while parking is an issue in downtown Whangārei, homelessness is also a problem.
“I can’t bear that there are people who are now homeless.”
Recent community response to the council’s long-term plan encouraged the council to double its budget for building new homes for retirees, with a budget of $1 million per year for the next four years.
The council also added $150,000 to develop a housing strategy with support from the housing industry and central government.
Kāinga Ora’s presentation described the dire need in the region, with Northland “lacking” 4,500 social and affordable homes.
“Had housing development fully kept pace with population growth in Northland, there would be an additional 4,500 homes,” Murray said.
Of the 235 homes Kāinga Ora plans to build in Northland over the next three years, one-third are planned for the Far North and two-thirds for Whangārei, and none are planned for Kaipara, he said.
“Obviously there will always be less than necessary. We will continue to go on a larger scale and pace, where the infrastructure is good.”
McKenzie said the agency also has a large backlog of homes in need of extensive renovations or replacement, with most of its housing stock reaching the end of its life.
It plans to upgrade 140 of its Northland homes — just six percent — by 2024 to make them warmer, drier and healthier.
In addition to building apartments in downtown Whangārei, Kāinga Ora is also planning a major redevelopment in the suburb of Otangarei, where it owns 250 homes.
The plan is to remove existing homes and replace them with multiple flats, Murray said.
State housing in Northland by the numbers
- 1002 families are currently waiting for state housing (585 in Whangārei, 348 in Far North, 69 in Kaipara)
- 4500 social and affordable housing “missing” in Northland
- 235 houses built by Kāinga Ora in the next three years
- 6,600 people live in 2,254 Kāinga Ora homes in Northland: 67 percent are Māori and 48 percent are single parents with children
- 140 Kāinga Ora houses adapted to be warmer, drier and healthier by 2024 (six percent of state houses in Northland).
CORRECTION: An original version of this story said that the Whangārei CBD apartments would be for the homeless. This was incorrect as Kāinga Ora has not decided how the apartments will be used. Updated at 4:57 PM, July 21, 2021.