Bold new plan for Wellington’s housing: Taskforce recommendations launched

28 June 2017

The Mayor’s Housing Taskforce has unveiled a bold new plan for fixing Wellington’s housing issues.

Rintoul Street development known as Altair.

The Taskforce’s final list of recommendations outlines ways the capital can build more homes, increase affordability, house its most vulnerable and improve the quality of existing housing.

Established in late 2016, the Taskforce, made up of representatives from the building industry, social services, public health sector, central government, and the property industry, was created by Mayor Justin Lester to take a comprehensive look at all aspects of the housing market in Wellington.

“We all love Wellington and we want it to stay a vibrant, affordable place to live for everyone. We don’t want to see housing issues like they have in Auckland,” the Mayor says.

“That’s why we set up this Taskforce –to have an independent body of experts who can take a fresh, deep look at the issue. We asked them to leave no stone unturned, to be brave and come up with real solutions.

“The report released today is a practical road map for our city on housing. Its recommendations would be the most thorough reform of housing in our city in a generation.

“This is an enormous opportunity and we’re going to grab it with both hands.”

Deputy Mayor Paul Eagle, who led the Taskforce says the recommendations create a comprehensive plan for the way forward.

“Housing is a complex issue, and there is no one thing we can do to solve everything. We need to be pulling on every lever and be brave enough to try new things,” he says.

“First, this report makes it very clear that Council needs to step up and directly build thousands of new social and affordable houses. We aren’t going to sit on the side lines and leave it to the market. We’ll be the only Council in the country building affordable homes for the private market, and ensuring affordable private rentals as well.

“Secondly, we need to be providing incentives to encourage more development. We need thousands more homes to built by the private market and we need them built as soon as possible.

“This report lays out several ways to do that, from freeing up more land, changing our rates and development contributions policies, through to allowing for greater density in selected suburbs and raising height limits in the CBD.

“Next, the report shows ways Council can reform its own practices to make building homes easier – one-stop shop consenting, and a design review panel to approve standardised designs quickly and speed up the process.

“The report also recommends a much closer working relationship between central and local government. We want to see a new deal between Housing NZ and Council so we work together to build large numbers of new high-quality social housing.

“We also need to do more to house our most vulnerable here in Wellington and the report lays out ideas on how we do that. It recommends we offer a range of incentives to encourage conversion of existing space into emergency accommodation for the homeless – just like we are planning to do for affordable rentals in the inner city.

“And finally, we don’t just want more houses, we need better housing quality as well.”

Eagle says the report recommends Council introduced a Wellington Standard – a set of guidelines to improve the quality of housing in Wellington.

“The proposal is that Council sets out clear standards for rental properties, and backs that with a voluntary inspection options for tenants so they can get a council report against the standard. We’d also investigate making financial incentives available to help landlords bring their homes up to standard.

“I want to thank everyone involved in the Taskforce for the hours of work they put in, and the ambitious and inspiring plan they’ve put together.”

The next step is that the recommendations from the report will be assessed by Council Officers and presented for Council for deliberation in August.

Ideas adopted will then be worked up to be included in the Mayor’s draft of Council’s Long Term Plan.