Thursday, 18 July 2013

One Voice Te Reo Kotahi Sector forum
17 July 2013 - YMCA, 10 Hereford St, Christchurch

How can housing developments in Greater Christchurch be future-proofed?Kia whakakotahi te hoe (Let's paddle in unison)  
Attendance:  Around 50 people attended.

Welcome:  Tangata Whenua Co-Chair Dora Langsbury welcomed everyone, introduced the OVTRK team and blessed the meeting.
A number of NGOs were invited to give short presentations on aspects of housing and residential developments. 

Comcare is a provider of social housing in Christchurch for people with mental health issues.  For them a future-proofed city is one where people who are vulnerable can be housed. 

There are 450 people at any one time who are homeless and experience mental health and addiction issues.  Often they are on invalid or sickness benefits.  Comcare supports clients to maintain their tenancies, which used to be mainly in private sector rentals.  They are now mainly in Housing NZ or Chch City Council properties.  There are over 100 people on Comcare’s waiting list. 

A positive development in the area of social housing was the stimulus that has come from the report of the Housing Shareholders Advisory Group established by government.  The report, ‘Home and Housed: A Vision for Social Housing in New Zealand’ has led to a reform process that has freed up opportunities and resources for NGOs to contribute more to social housing provision.  As a result Comcare is currently building 32 flats and hoping to build another 32 in new year. 

The Social Housing Reform Bill going through Parliament now has some positives and negatives.  One positive is that the government subsidy that is given to Housing New Zealand to be able to provide low-rental housing will also be made available to NGOs providing social housing.   

WikiHouse is a system that creates buildings that can be deconstructed and reconstructed.  It is trying to achieve affordable, high-performance buildings for everyone, especially residential housing.  The NZ initiative is being developed by Space Craft Systems and is part of a global network of people working on this issue.  Warm, dry, and sustainable is the goal. 


·         adaptable design: build only what you need, when you need it, and change it when you want.  

·         empowering people:  enables communities to better help themselves and each other,

·         protective environment: safeguards people, their interests and the environment.

The concept involves neighbourhoods designed and delivered by those who live in them.  There is a global library of designs that can be downloaded and then cheaply ‘printed’ and assembled without formal construction skills or tools.  They can be assembled by non-skilled people under supervision of project leader. 

WikiHouse NZ is looking for more people to become involved, along with funding and partners who can help.

The Viva project
The vision of Viva is “to create a vibrant urban village, an innovative and inspiring example of sustainable design and connected community”. 

With the involvement of architecture and design practice Jasmax, Viva held an integrated design workshop with over 100 people, who designed the kind of village they would like to see in Christchurch.  The design was entered the ‘Breathe’ Urban Village competition and was selected as one of four finalists.  The winning design will be built on the corner of Madras and Gloucester St. 

Their plan provides medium density housing but still maintains quite a lot of open space, allowing for food growing and an orchard. The focus is on wellbeing and happiness.  It’s important that the central city can’t be just for the rich and overseas visitors.

‘Breathe’ competition:

NZ Planning Institute
The NZ Planning Institute gave an overview of Housing Accords Bill, which came out of the 2012 report of the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into housing affordability.  The inquiry identified the lack of housing supply as an influence on housing affordability. 

The purpose of the Accords Bill is to stimulate supply.  Under the Bill, the Government is able to identify regions and districts with significant housing supply and affordability issues and designate them as Special Housing Areas.  A Housing Accord is then developed between the relevant council and government to work collaboratively to address housing supply and affordability issues. 

While the intention is that councils and the Government will work in good faith, if an agreement cannot be reached the Bill gives the Government the ability to establish Special Housing Areas and to issue consents for developments in areas of severe housing unaffordability.. 

Within the Special Housing Areas, resource consent and plan change processes will be made more permissive.  Developments must be predominantly residential, and will be subject to height restrictions and a maximum number of houses.  However these can be overridden by Order in Council.  The legislation will be time-limited to 2017.

The Social Services Select Committee is due to report back on the Bill at the end of July. 

NZ Planning Institute:

Tenants Protection Assn 
TPA recently undertook a survey of tenants, which confirmed what they have been saying for a long time, that people are suffering in the rental arena. 

Of the 365 respondents, 70% have had one or more rent increases since the quakes.  The average increase is $43 per week.  Many tenants reported that rentals met only the most basic needs and nearly 50% reported mould issues.

The report puts forward a number of recommendations: 

·         The implementation of a rent stabilisation programme.  TPA would like to see a public disscussion around this.  It works in many countries around the world and they are working on a model to take to government.

·         Abolish letting fees.  These are charged by property manager or other letting agent and are the equivalent of one week’s rent + GST.  Tenants can’t get this from W&I.  As the property manager has agreement with the owner rather than the tenant, they shouldn’t be able to charge this to the tenant. 

·         An end to 90 day notices.  This would provide tenants with security of tenure.  Currently landlords can give 90 days’ notice without reason.  TPA recommends that all terminations must have a valid reason.  A strong theme that came through from tenants in survey was that they don’t complain about anything because they fear being given 90 days’ notice and there is nowhere for them to go to.  Property managers are re-renting properties more often than they used to over the same period of time.  They get another letting fee, but there is no security of tenure for tenants.  The average tenancy is 10 mths – 2 years. 

·         Warrant of Fitness for all rental properties:  The Government has announced that they will introduce this for Housing NZ properties.  TPA recommends that it also be brought into private sector, where most tenants live.

TPA is looking for support on these initiatives.  Homelessness is on the rise, particularly in Christchurch.  We need to future-proof the future of our citizens, and we must say that what people are living in is unacceptable. 

TPA also encouraged people to look at the Housing Accords Bill very carefully.

TPA (Chch) Rental Survey 2013:  A Study of Increasing Rents and Housing Conditions in the Greater Christchurch Area.

Tenants Protection Assn:

Lifemark advocates design standards to improve the state of NZ housing, providing design solutions for our ageing population.  They promote a set of common sense design standards based on 5 key principles: accessibility, adaptability, usability, safety, and lifetime value.

The speaker from Lifemark was unable to attend.  Tangata Tiriti Co-Chair Katherine Peet passed on some information that she had received prior to the meeting about the availability of a new Lifelong Design Advisory Service.  This is now free for people in Canterbury where their home is to be rebuilt or significantly repaired due to the earthquakes.  An advisor can meet with homeowners and recommend how homes can be adapted for lifespan use.


Lifelong Design Advisory Service:

From the Ground Up
A group of people looked at what it costs for standard suburban development (infill) and development of a whole area to a similar density to that of infill by consolidation of use and removing cars.  Homes can be built more cheaply with this latter course of action.  Norway has very high building standards, and can build a home for parent and child for $67,000.  This can only be done with economies of scale and cooperation.

Cooperative Sections: 
This project is trying to make land affordable.  When buying a home in a standard property development, 1/3 of the cost is the land, 1/3 of the cost is materials and building, 1/3 is the developer’s margin.  The initiative has found some land and developed community sections that are selling for up to $140,000.  Few people have inquired, and and this may be because people are risk averse.  We need to start taking more risks, that’s why developers make their profits - they take the risks that we’re not prepared to. 

Cooperative Sections:

Land Use Renewal Plan update
In response to a question how urban villages can be connected with each other and the central city when there are two separate plans – LURP and Central City, Stephen Timms from ECan was invited to give the meeting an update on the progress of the LURP. 

The new version of the plan is more about people and about how it integrates with the central city plan.  It sets targets for intensification to 2028, aiming initially for 35% of all development within the existing urban area and includes some mechanisms for doing this. 

The Plan is open for further comment until 2 August, and the Minister is keen to implement it as quickly as possible.  It is available from libraries or on the CERA website. 

Questions and comments from the attendees:

  • As the key issue is resource availability (we are running out of cheap oil) and other world issues such as collapsing economy; how do we move from this plan to future-proof our city?  Risk analysis in the plan seems to be absent.  Stephen responded that the issues have been addressed to the extent that we could. 
  • Missing from the plan is realistic thinking about people.  Prior to the quakes we were losing living spaces to urban development and gentrification.  Poor people are being forced out to the greenfields, where they are further from employment and community resources.  Central city living will be the domain of the well-to-do.  Stephen replied that the planners have been taking this into consideration, trying to plan so that people can remain in the city. 
  • Housing needs to be configured not just for nuclear families but for extended families – this is particularly important for CALD communities.  The urban village concept is useful, needs to be maximum 20 houses. 
  • LURP has proposals for affordable housing on p32.

General discussion / items from the floor: 

  • There is concern at the reported price that government is paying for commercial land – twice the current GV.  This is discouraging innovation. 
  • In the LURP is reference to the Canterbury Sustainable Homes Working Party.  Set up by Ecan, this is now being shared with MBIE and Beacon pathways.  It could be a vehicle for people to influence what gets to council.  The working party is developing Build Back Smarter guidelines with the involvement of Lifemark. 
  • PHA and Healthy Chch are planning a housing forum for later in the year. 

Closure:  In closing, people were encouraged to stay in touch with each other and engage with the vision and keep weaving the web.