News | 7 December 2018

Wellington to expand affordable apartment model

Wellington City Council will expand its New Zealand-first project of providing affordable inner city apartments with the owners of six more buildings wanting to convert their properties.

Panoramic view from harbour to the city.

Earlier this year, the Council entered a 15-year agreement with a local property development company to convert the former Freemason House on Willis Street, into 35 apartments, called Te Kāinga Aroha.

Council will lease the quality one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments 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.

On Thursday, the City Strategy Committee unanimously agreed that the model would be rolled out for six further CBD buildings, where the owners have approached Council wanting to convert them to apartments.

There is potential for around 400 apartments, where depending on size, they can be rented out for between $400 and $700.

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester says the aim is to keep people in the CBD despite skyrocketing rental prices.

“The private rental market in Wellington is broken. It’s not working for students, it’s not working for key workers such as teachers, nurses and firefighters,” he says.

“They are having to live further and further away, outside of Wellington and commuting further and further to work, and that’s not the sort of city we want to live in.”

“We want to be innovative in our response. We want to create a secondary market, which has been done overseas, such as Whistler, Paris and Singapore.”

The model is cost-neutral to Council and will have no impact on rates.

The building owners benefit with a secured tenant for 15 years. They will be required to refurbish the buildings to at least 80 percent of National Building Standards.

Councillor Brian Dawson, who holds the Housing Portfolio, says the Council wants to move on addressing its accommodation problem.

“It’s a partnership with the private sector. It’s saying ‘how can we encourage and assist people to make a difference in the city’.

“These are private developers who have been willing to forego some of the profits they could make in order to partner with Council in delivering a benefit for the city.”