$400 Million Housing Upgrade

18 April 2011

The 20-year, $400 million project to upgrade Wellington City Council's social housing, now almost into its third year, has hit top gear - with almost $1 million now being spent a week on design and construction.

Revamped Central Park flats are part of the $400 million social housing upgrade

Revamped Central Park flats are part of the $400 million social housing upgrade

Work has now started at Newtown Park Flats - the biggest of our 40 housing sites around the city - where $32 million will be spent over the next two years to transform the 279-unit complex.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown says the housing upgrade programme (HUP) - jointly funded by the Government and the City Council - started quietly in August 2008 with the $6.1 million upgrade of Te Ara Hou Apartments in Newtown.

"But now the project is really humming - with work under way on four major sites. Not only does this mean that our tenants are getting safer, warmer and nicer places to live but also the project is now contributing significantly to the local economy in these tough times."

Mayor Wade-Brown says more than $40 million is to be spent in the 2011/12 financial year and an average $30 million spent in the succeeding three years.

The construction is accompanied by a major logistical exercise involving the relocation of tenants to other Council rental complexes while work is under way. This year more than 500 individuals and families will be shifted - helped by a specialist team dedicated to making the shifts as stress-free as possible.

The Housing Upgrade Project Director, Byron Roff, says demolition and upgrade work is now well advanced at the Central Park and Hanson Court sites - and an $8 million 'new-build' low-rise project is under way at Regent Park off Owen Street in Newtown.

But the Newtown Park project is by far the biggest and most complex. It involves the seismic-strengthening of three separate highrise blocks and the demolition of a fourth.

The intention is to knock walls out between the 279 small units - many of them single occupant bedsits - to create larger apartments that can be used by families.

City Housing Manager Vicki McLaren says one of the main reasons for the upgrade programme is to make the housing stock "fit for purpose in the 21st century. A lot of our sites are rundown and were designed for single workers in the 1960s. Among our 3,500 tenants we now have far more families - we want to make our housing more safe and suitable for children."

Byron says the 20-year programme will have two peaks in terms of construction. "We're right at the top of the first peak now - and we're spending the $220 million contribution to the project from the Government.

"The peak will tail off by about 2017/18 and then we'll have a 'breather' of about six years while we bank rental income from the housing stock to fund the second building phase which is scheduled to peak about 15 years from now."