$180 million for next stage of housing upgrade

30 May 2016

Wellington City Council has been scrutinising its social housing business model, its portfolio and the way it charges rent as it continues its commitment to the long-term provision of quality social housing in the city.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown says the city will remain committed to the long-term provision of social housing in the city and give the best possible value to tenants.

"Our social housing services must be sustainable and affordable while we complete our portfolio to a modern standard.

"Everyone deserves a warm home," says Mayor Wade-Brown.

"Alternative medium density housing, close to amenities, is essential for the growing Wellington population. Modular design means a more cost-effective build," she says.

She says the Council has set three overarching priorities for its social housing vision through to 2040 covering quality housing, for purpose and in the right place; getting the best outcomes through innovation and smart partnerships, and; sustainable social housing that is affordable for tenants and affordable for the city.

The Council is committed to spending another $180 million over the next 10 years to complete its $400 million Housing Upgrade Programme which began in 2008.

Councillor Paul Eagle, Chair of the committee responsible for social housing says key decisions were made at its April meeting,

“We’ve agreed to retain ownership of our social housing to at least 2037 and continue in-house delivery of social housing services. We provide just under 50% of all social housing in the city and we’ve built that up over 75 years.”

“We know our tenants are struggling to make ends meet. So we’ve asked council officers to make sure affordability for tenants is properly understood before considering changes to the structure for rental subsidies.”

“We’re extremely proud of what’s been achieved since the start of the Housing Upgrade Programme kicked-off in 2008,” says Cr Eagle. Highlights include:

  • On completion of Arlington Site 2 in 2018, the first tranche of the HUP, part-funded by a $220 million Crown grant, will have delivered nine stunningly upgraded, warmer, dryer housing complexes; five of which were earthquake strengthened; containing 950 upgraded social housing units (45% of portfolio)
  • 50* new or upgraded on-site indoor and outdoor community facilities for tenants around the city, and a dedicated community development programme supporting tenant communities.
  • Over this period we have also made dozens more homes warmer and dryer through ongoing renewals, improved our focus on tenant welfare and customer service and strengthened links with support providers in the community.

With demolition now under way on Arlington Site 2 between Taranaki and Hopper streets, focus turns to finding an innovative way to develop Arlington Site 1, including the George Porter Tower and surrounding apartments.

Site 1 currently has 192 Council units. The District Plan allows for higher density than this on the site, but the Council already has 400 other social housing units on the CBD fringe at Central Park, Berkeley Dallard and Pukehinau, as well as 105 on the new Arlington Site 2.

In this light, the Council is inviting interested parties to discuss the possibility of a joint development on the site, with a mix of social housing alongside private housing.

Cr Eagle says, “We are intent on finding innovative ways to overcome the challenges of providing sustainable social housing; with new approaches to projects such as we did with Arlington Site 2, and will continue with Arlington Site 1, and forming smart partnerships to achieve our goals.”

Other new approaches include the prospect of selling properties that are hard to tenant, despite long waiting lists, to reinvest into upgrading or acquiring housing that better matches needs.

The Council expects to discuss the affordable rental strategy, a broader affordable housing strategy, and possibilities for Arlington Site 1 development, at a Community, Sport and Recreation Committee meeting in September this year.