Tackling the housing crisis
Published on 01 April 2021
For a growing number of our people, owning or renting an affordable home is now an almost impossible dream. This is not just a Far North problem; the whole country is in the grip of a housing crisis. This has seen the cost for buyers and renters spiral ever upwards. In just the past year, the median house price in Northland has climbed from $560,000 to over $660,000.
Like elsewhere, we have too few homes to meet increasing demand from those escaping wildly inflated city housing markets and those returning home from overseas. As a result, we are seeing increased overcrowding impacting on people’s health and contributing to a raft of other community problems. Worse still, homelessness is now a serious issue. While this has long been a problem in our cities, a growing number of our people are now living in cars, garages and even tents. This is a huge concern, but one the Council cannot tackle on its own. That is why I was so pleased last week to learn that the Government has committed $3.8 billion to a new Housing Acceleration Fund.
New housing developments require substantial investment from councils for infrastructure. We need to provide new roads and storm water systems. We may also need to provide water and sewerage systems. Then there are facilities that help make this a great place to live. New playgrounds, footpaths, sports fields, boat ramps, libraries and much more. For cash-strapped councils like ours, paying for this infrastructure can place an impossible financial burden on ratepayers. One aim of the Government’s $3.8 billion fund is to help local authorities provide critical infrastructure. This will be on top of the Government’s $350 million Residential Development Response Fund established in August 2020 to support the construction sector following COVID-19.
Another aim of the new fund will be to better meet housing needs by expanding existing relationships with iwi and Māori, and the not-for-profit sector. We’re already making strides in this area. The Council is working closely with Ricky Houghton and He Korowai Trust in Kaitaia, and we are undertaking similar work in Kaikohe. With Government assistance, we hope to advance similar relationships with other housing providers and community groups across the district.
We will also ask our commercial company, Far North Holdings Ltd, to focus more on housing developments for our people. This company has already proved it is a very capable and successful project manager, delivering numerous high-value projects for the benefit of the whole district. These include the complete revamp of Opua Marina, a new terminal at Bay of Islands Airport and creation of a business park at Ngawha.
The Government is still working on details of its Housing Acceleration Fund and says it will reveal more by the end of June. Detailed discussions will then begin with councils around the country. We will keep you updated on progress and on how we plan to get our people into homes.