31 January 2019

Meeting of minds to solve Southland’s housing shortage

The Government has indicated it will increase Southland’s allocation of state houses and build them faster than planned in a bid to help address the region’s housing shortage.

Before it happens, the Southland community and councils must identify what land is available for the new houses to be built on.

Government officials have on Thursday talked with Southland leaders, including councils, developers and members of the Southland Housing Action Forum, about the region’s housing shortage.

A Venture Southland report suggests Southland needs 2800 houses in 2019 to fill the current need, and more than 480 houses every year after that for five years to fill future demand.

Some of the more pressing issues involve shortages of affordable worker and family housing, shortages in social and emergency housing, a lack of executive housing and increasing demand for aged care housing.

This week the Invercargill City Council agreed to free up vacant council owned land in a bid to ease the city’s housing crisis; while in November a delegation representing the Southland Housing Action Forum went to Wellington to discuss the region’s housing concerns with Housing Minister Phil Twyford.

Thursday’s meeting in Invercargill was a follow-up visit from Government officials to further discuss the issues.

Invercargill List MP Liz Craig said Invercargill and Southland had a shortage of social housing so a big part of the discussions were how to get social housing built more quickly in Invercargill.

Currently, Invercargill has 355 state houses and 31 transitional houses, but last year the Government announced an extra 40 state houses would be built in Invercargill over four years.

Scott Gallacher, deputy chief executive of public housing in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development who led the Government delegation to Invercargill, said the Government was willing to go higher than 40.

“We just need to work with the right people to identify the land opportunities and ensure we work with community housing providers and Housing New Zealand,” he said.

“We are open to bring on as much supply that is required for the local community.”

Gallacher also said the government would consider whether Kiwi Build homes would be an option for Invercargill now the scheme was being recalibrated.

Southlanders needed to explore all avenues to bring on more housing supply, he said.

The Southland chamber of Commerce has been facilitating meetings between like-minded community organisations to look at solutions to housing shortages in Southland.

Chamber chief executive Sheree Carey said they got involved after getting feedback from employers that their workers were struggling to find accommodation.

“The CBD rebuild is coming so we decided to pull everyone together which has turned into the Southland Housing Action Forum.

“We need more houses to ensure the rebuild of the CBD goes smoothly.”

Social housing was one aspect of the issue, but developers also had a big part to play.

Any new houses would take the pressure off, whether it be private developers building executive homes, developers building affordable rental properties and the government’s extra social housing.

Carey said the Venture Southland report showing how many houses were needed in Southland gave developers and investors confidence that if they built subdivisions they would sell.

“The risk for investment in Invercargill is really low.”

Southland Housing Action Forum chairman Shaun Drylie said investors, developers and builders needed to be given confidence to come back to Southland and councils needed to “oil the wheels” to help the process.

The housing problem was one of “growing pains”, Drylie said.

“There is some crisis and challenge, we don’t want to understate that, but that’s been brought about through positive growth in Southland.”


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