Social Housing Upgrade: Work Starts, Plans Unveiled

23 July 2009

Construction has started at Newtown's Te Ara Hou Flats, the first Wellington City Council housing complex to be improved under a massive upgrade that's a joint initiative between the Council and the Government.

At a ceremony this morning to mark the start of construction, Mayor Kerry Prendergast unveiled images and details of the proposed upgrade of several other large housing sites around the city:

  • Regent Park (Newtown)
  • Central Park (Te Aro)
  • Marshall Court (Miramar)

The Council's entire housing portfolio - including all 40 of its housing complexes - will be upgraded over the next 20 years. The Government has committed $220 million to fund the first 10 years of work and the Council will use housing revenue to finance the second decade's upgrade activities.

Thirteen housing sites will be improved in the first 10 years of the project. These are among the largest, in poorest condition and most in need of earthquake strengthening. The remainder will be improved in the second decade of work.

Mayor Prendergast said that the work was a necessary part of being both a good landlord and a caring council.

"The upgrade will make all of our social housing safer, warmer and more modern and it will improve the well-being of our tenants." she said.

Housing Upgrade Project Director Byron Roff added: "Over the course of the next year, Te Ara Hou will be given a new lease of life, making it a better place to live for all of the tenants. They will have warmer, drier units that are better suited for modern living."

Te Ara Hou, a complex originally completed in the late 1970s, houses over 180 people in 67 units. The work at Te Ara Hou will include:

  • Improved ventilation and insulation to make the flats warmer and drier
  • Upgraded kitchens and bathrooms
  • New curtains, carpet and paint
  • Installation of a better rubbish and recycling system
  • Landscaping of outdoor areas.

Tenants attended two workshops where the architects listened to their views on the proposed designs and made changes to accommodate tenants' wishes where possible.

The work at Te Ara Hou will happen in three phases and will be completed by June next year. Last month the Council assisted tenants and their families to move out from 24 flats before construction started. Some moved permanently to other Council accommodation. Others are being housed temporarily in other flats at the complex or in Council complexes nearby. These tenants are due to move back when the first phase of work is complete in about 16 weeks.

Byron Roff added: "Tenant welfare is paramount. We worked closely with tenants to ensure we found them somewhere suitable to live within our housing stock and we've assisted them with all aspects of their move."

Architects' Impressions Released

Architects' impressions were released today of Te Ara Hou and of proposed designs for Central Park Flats, Regent Park Flats and Marshall Court Flats.

The overall construction estimate for these four complexes is $50 million. The proposed work at Central Park, Regent Park and Marshall Court would see some of the most significant changes of the whole programme of work.

Byron Roff said: "The designs unveiled today mark the start of an exciting and challenging venture. This gives us the chance to reinvent and reinvigorate large social housing sites that are well past their best. These complexes will look and feel much more modern and will be something that the Council, tenants and the local community can be proud of."

Central Park Flats

Central Park Flats is one of the larger Council complexes in Wellington, housing about 280 people. Construction is scheduled for July 2010 - February 2013.

Changes at Central Park will include:

  • A modern colour scheme on the outside of the buildings
  • More family-sized accommodation in the complex
  • Upgraded kitchen, bathrooms and interior décor
  • A new community space for the 800 or so tenants who live in Central Park Flats and the surrounding complexes
  • Fewer entrances, making it more secure
  • Earthquake strengthening
  • Warmer and drier units as a result of new ventilation and insulation
  • Enhanced landscaping and outdoor areas.

Regent Park and Marshall Court

An increasing demand for family-sized accommodation has driven the Council's proposal to redevelop Regent Park and Marshall Court. They currently house mainly single people in bedsits. The Council will work with these tenants to find them alternative accommodation as they won't return to their flats after construction.

Regent Park:

It's proposed Regent Park in Newtown be developed into 28 brand new housing units suitable for families. Construction is scheduled for November 2010 - August 2011.

The site will become a high quality residential development with a similar look to private housing. It will include a mix that is a better fit with the surrounding neighbourhood. Sixteen ground floor units will be fully accessible to accommodate tenants with disabilities.

Marshall Court:

It's proposed to develop Marshall Court into 21 two- and three- bedroom units.

A new roof and balconies are planned. Landscape improvements will include an internal courtyard for tenants where they can gather and children can play, store bikes and equipment, and grow a garden. There are plans for a new indoor community facility where tenants can get together. Ventilation and insulation will make the flats warmer and drier.

Housing Upgrade Project – Background

Wellington City Council signed an agreement with the Crown last August which will see $220 million of Government grant invested in the housing upgrade project. The grant will fund the works in the first 10 years. The Council will use revenue from housing rental income to complete the remaining work in the second decade of the project. The work will involve upgrading some 2,354 properties that are home to nearly 4,000 tenants.

Physical Works

In the first 10 years of the Housing Upgrade Project, 13 complexes will be improved to make life better for tenants. These sites were chosen because they among the largest, in poorest condition and most in need of earthquake strengthening. They also house around 65 percent of our tenants. The remainder of our housing properties will be prioritised for upgrade work from 2018.

The complexes that will be upgraded in the first 10 years of the project are:

  • Te Ara Hou, Newtown
  • Central Park Flats, Te Aro
  • Marshall Court, Miramar
  • Regent Park, Newtown
  • Hanson Court, Newtown
  • Kotuku Flats, Kilbirnie
  • Newtown Park, Newtown
  • Berkeley Dallard Apartments, Te Aro
  • Granville Flats, Berhampore
  • Whare Ahuru Flats, Thorndon
  • Arlington Tower, Mount Cook
  • Batchelor Street, Newlands
  • Some work may also be done at Rintoul Street Villas, Newtown.

Most tenants will have to move out of their home while it's upgraded. The Council will find alternative accommodation for all tenants who are eligible for Council housing. Council staff will work closely with tenants individually to find them a property that is suited to their needs.

The work being undertaken as part of the upgrade includes:

  • Insulating homes to make them warmer
  • Improving ventilation
  • Providing earthquake-strengthening where needed
  • Upgrading kitchens and bathrooms
  • Providing more family-sized accommodation by increasing the size of some units and building a small number of new ones
  • Improving tenant safety and reducing crime through improved lighting and fewer 'entrapment' areas such as dark corners and pathways that aren't overlooked by housing
  • Addressing building code compliance particularly fire protection and emergency services access routes
  • Improved landscaping and communal outdoor areas
  • Better community facilities.

Community Development

The housing upgrade project is not just about bricks and mortar. It includes a Community Action Programme that aims to increase social inclusion by creating an environment where tenants feel a sense of pride and enhanced well-being.

The programme includes working with tenants to develop facilities like community rooms, barbecue areas and playgrounds.

It also includes developing youth programmes, hobby and craft clubs and health and fitness activities. It also involves tenants having their say in the design of the physical changes at their housing sites. Hundreds of tenants have already attended design workshops to put their views forward.

Tenancy Management

In tandem with the upgrade project, the Council is introducing a more proactive approach to managing tenancies. Housing staff will be onsite regularly at the bigger complexes so that tenants can get to know them and ask questions or raise concerns with them in person.