The apartment conversion deal is aimed at allowing key workers to live in the city. Wellington City Council and The Wellington Company (TWC) have entered a 15-year agreement which will see TWC convert Freemason House, 95-201 Willis Street, into 35 apartments.
The apartments will take up five floors of the nine-storey 1980s office block. Commercial tenants will remain on the ground and other floors.
Mana whenua have gifted the building the new name Te Kainga Aroha.
Council will lease the quality one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments from TWC and rent them out at less than the market rate to people who are employed in essential work in the central city and who have trouble finding rentals.
Tenants’ rents will be tied to increases to the Consumer Price Index and not the market rate. Tenants will have to meet certain criteria to be eligible for the units.
The model, which is cost neutral to Council, can be rolled out to additional buildings in the city that meet the criteria.
Delivering inner-city conversions is part of the Wellington Housing Strategy, Housing Action Plan and is one of Wellington City Council’s priorities.
“We want people who work in the city to be able to live in the city. Any city needs a range of rentals and this will help address that,” says Wellington Mayor Justin Lester.
“We need to be innovative on housing too. We want to break the mould. If we keep doing things the same way we’ll get the same outcomes.”
Councillor Brian Dawson, who holds the housing portfolio, says during the fit out the building can be upgraded to modern earthquake standards.
“This is a great opportunity to inject good quality apartments into the rental market and also improve the resilience of Wellington buildings.”
The Wellington Company approached Council with the proposal earlier this year. “We realise that there is a lack of affordable rental accommodation in Wellington,” says The Wellington Company’s Alex Cassels.
“We want to help the city stay affordable for workers and for them to live in quality properties. We have voluntarily committed to meeting the Council’s rental warrant of fitness, will provide free wi-fi and rubbish collection.
“The apartments will also be fitted out with the latest LED lights and gas water heating so as to reduce residents’ costs. We are also happy to have secured a rock-solid tenant for 15 years,” Mr Cassels adds.
The first of the apartments will be available by this time next year.