Concern Hāwea developer disregarding affordable housing requirements

by Lauren Pattemore - May 03, 2024

Hāwea Community Association members have expressed concern that section and house packages in the township's special housing area aren't being sold for agreed-upon prices of $600,000 and below. 

There's also further concern that the Queenstown Lakes District Council isn't monitoring the sale of the packages more closely as per a deed signed between the the council and the developer in 2018.

Community association member Louise Merrall has penned an open letter to councillors detailing her concerns developer Lane Hocking is not upholding affordable housing promises outlined in the Hāwea Special Housing Area deed.

But Mr Hocking of Universal Developments tells Crux today it's now "impossibleto provide land packages at this agreed-upon price.

"The original pricing was set several years ago and the subsequent inflationary environment has made it impossible to continue to meet those prices."

The deed was updated in 2020, and the maximum price of these fixed-priced packages was lifted to $599,999.

In a recent email from Queenstown Lakes District Council's housing officer Emily Irwin to the housing association and councillors, Ms Irwin says the council has "begun a process to establish the facts".

"This is an important stage in the process which will give Council independent advice relating to the current nature of the market, stepping outside of opinion, interests and perception,her statement says. 

"This will help provide confidence to councillors as they progress with future decisions."

Ms Irwin specifies that to date the developer has been compliant with "the majority of the obligationsfrom the deed.

Hāwea resident and district councillor Cody Tucker has expressed confidence in the council staff member in charge of the negotiations, telling Crux they are "very capable, acutely aware of the sentiment and is driven to uphold this".

"We need to ensure we are holding the developer to account on the deed that enabled the SHA to ensure the long-term relationship isn’t abused by them ignoring their commitment with no repercussions."

"Development has its risks in the market, like any investment, which shouldn't be compensated by public authorities in the few instances it isn't extremely lucrative.

"No one wants to be taken advantage of, especially at the cost of providing the affordable housing that the zoning was enabled for." 

Ms Merrall’s concerns arose earlier this year when she could not see any packages advertised by the developer for the agreed upon affordable rate, and she sent a request for information under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act to the council on February 4. 

She asked the council for documentation to show evidence of the developer meeting the fixed prices for house and land packages.

Ms Merrall says most houses she's seen have been sold between $800,000 and $1.2 million. 

Ms Merrall received emails between Mr Hocking and the council as part of her LGOIMA request and she says it showed a lack of "monitoringfrom the council. 

"It certainly creates that perception of developer over community.

"We continue to see in our community there are people struggling to get on the property ladder, struggling to find a secure home, and this mechanism is not being used, and he's not been held to account."

Mr Hocking declined to answer how many packages he had sold for $599,000 and below. 

The way these packages work is that Mr Hocking's company provides the section, and a partnered builder will build the house on the land at an all-inclusive price.

Mr Hocking has made comments to Crux that because of this arrangement the overall pricing is outside of his control.

"Once a purchaser moves to the building company stage we do not have visibility of what they decide on, but we sold over 150 sections at a $100k discount,he says.

However, he says having ten of New Zealand’s largest homebuilders competing for the building business at Longview gives him comfort that the best possible pricing is being shown to buyers.

He says Longview has provided the most affordable sections and packages in the district since launch, with sections available from $329,000 upwards. 

A QLDC spokesperson has today confirmed the council has received the open letter from Ms Merral. 

"We are now reviewing its contents before any direct response to Ms Merrall,the spokesperson says. 

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