News No. 1

AFFORDABLE HOUSING CRISIS: Waiheke can’t afford to lose the people who can’t afford to live here

As Published in Gulf News, 23 June 2016

Getting a grip on our real housing needs

If you own a house on Waiheke that you plan to sell or rent, the news is great, prices are skyrocketing. However, if you are part of the community – still a complete, not yet an elite, community – then the news is not good at all.  Waiheke can’t afford to lose the people who can’t afford to live here any longer.

The children who grew up here can’t afford to remain. The old people who are honoured for their age, and for the fact they had lived good lives and they had taken care of their community needs are being priced out of the market. The folks who came to Waiheke and make it a complete community do not earn enough to pay the ever increasing weekly rent. And then we have the problem faced by the local services and businesses.   The schools are finding it hard to attract good teachers, the health services to attract good doctors and nurses. The island’s hospitality, vineyard and construction industries have the jobs on offer, but the cost of housing makes those job offers unrealistic. Stories abound about 14 people renting a two-bedroom home, much to the annoyance of neighbours. People are forced to live in cars and tents, yet at the upper end of the market, Waiheke has one of the highest seasonal vacancy rates: hollow homes or ghost homes as 2nd home owners no longer want to be bothered with seasonal tenants.

The issue of affordable housing is not new. In October 2000, the council adopted Essentially Waiheke that devoted a full page to the matter. “Affordable housing is essential for a community that is strong and diverse” the council wrote and they set out both an aim and key strategies and actions. Sixteen years on, it is clear that non-statutory documents don’t influence decision-making. To the contrary, during that time, a new district plan was written that envisioned the 1950’s Kiwi dream of the nuclear family living in their 3-bedroom single-family-dwelling on a quarter-acre section.

St Johns College Garden Quad OxfordHousing Need

The data from Waiheke tells a different story. Reportedly, 40% of locals are single persons living alone – yet there are no provisions for solo types of housing. What are some examples of solo housing?

  • 10m2 Tiny Homes – multiple sleepouts build around a large commons building all of which is defined as a single dwelling. Except that council says no more than 8 unrelated people can live in a dwelling
  • The Oxford-style Residence Hall – first developed in the 13th century, these buildings have private suites for single persons (or sometimes couples) but no individual kitchens. Instead there is a large dining hall with professional food preparers and large commons space for socialisation.
  • Elder housing that is mixed with younger people. Retirement villages segregate people, whereas many elders wish to live in all-age communities where they play the special role elders always used to play.

Waiheke also has need of solo-parent housing, and in a focus group, the parents said they would prefer “quad homes”, four residences with a wide bifold door that opened up onto a shared, enclosed courtyard. When the bifold was open, the other children were welcome to come in, as parenting was shared. In the focus group, these solo parents said they also would welcome an elder person or couple as surrogate grandparents.

There is a need for work-live residences, where a group of people, say artists or people who share working in a small industry can create clustered living that combines residence with their work. Of course the most ancient of this form of living in Aotearoa is the Papakainga model that Maori lived before colonisation.

Action Plan

After too many local meetings, discussions and foiled attempts at engaging council officers in dialogue, a group of locals decided to stop saying “they should”, and instead shifted to “we will”. A legal structure was needed, and as it happened a charitable trust, Me Aroha Waiheke Foundation, was available. An establishment board was appointed and the web site aroha.net, and Facebook Page Me Aroha Waiheke were set up to put forth the message. The next job is to move from anecdotal or statistical data to finding out who actually needs affordable housing and what they can afford.

To do this, a survey has been set up. Go to aroha.net and select the Survey tab. If you know someone who do not use computers, the Library, Adult Learning Centre and the Budgeting Services are happy to assist, including printing out the survey and collecting it.

The survey is both for employers needing worker housing and for people needing affordable housing for themselves. Knowing who needs affordable housing is essential. It can’t be done without you; please fill out the survey now.

One this need has been established the foundation will press the Council to identify affordable land that can secure resource consent for affordable housing. It also will be looking for donations and funding, since this initiative is being driven by volunteers, and long-term volunteerism on complex matters like this do not work. Finally, once the need, permission and land have been secured, the foundation will build the affordable housing, or find a social enterprise to do it. Action not talk.


Image: The 1980's Garden Quadrangle at St. Johns College, Oxford

Photo by By Steve Cadman - originally posted to Flickr as St John's College, Click on image for Wikipedia link

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