A new $46 million resort-style retirement village offering affordable living is planned for Papamoa - with homes costing as little as $219,000.
The developers behind Freedom Villages will launch their 6.5ha model lifestyle community at Wairakei this month and say it is the first of its kind in New Zealand.
On November 16, three high-quality, factory-built showhomes will be opened to the public, with prices starting at $219,000 for a 1.5-bedroom dwelling, to just over $300,000 for a three-bedroom house.
There are about 160 homes planned in total on the site, off Golden Sands Drive.
City leaders have applauded the development, saying it will help alleviate the shortage of affordable homes in the Bay. Advocacy groups have also welcomed it, saying it offers older people more choice.
Freedom Villages spokeswoman Juliette Yarrell told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend the development would have retirement village status but would be built to have a resort feel.
Ms Yarrell said the development was designed for the 55-plus market - the "average New Zealander" who hopes to have an affordable home near the beach when they retire and cash to travel.
"Over 50,000 over-50-year-olds had their savings and investments substantially reduced or wiped out by the recent GFC and its knock-on effects in terms of failed finance companies," she said.
"But these people still want to cash up and enjoy the latter halves of their lives in full control of their finances and quality of life.
"We want to provide the answer to this group, to give them the opportunity to free themselves of financial burden and enjoy the lifestyle and home they desire."
Ms Yarrell said Freedom Villages had worked with one of New Zealand's top designers, David Ponting, to create modern and affordable factory-built homes, which would be built to order and transported to the Papamoa site.
"The homes can be customised to suit buyers' tastes," she said.
"Low cost does not mean low quality, our homes are affordable and look amazing."
The development will have a "resort-rather-than-retirement feel", with community linked walkways, gardening plots, self-drive courtesy vans and high-speed internet.
Mayor Stuart Crosby said the concept brought a new, innovative and affordable concept of housing to Tauranga that fitted in well with the city council's long-term growth plan.
"Once people can see how this model works I think it will open the door for other affordable, quality housing developments," he said.
"This model shows you can have freedom, the ability to travel and still have a nice home base to come back to.
"It is exciting that they have chosen Tauranga to promote their product."
The first stage will include an oversize parking lot with space for 40 boats or motorhomes.
"We are predicting one in four residents will use the villages as lock-up and leave holiday homes or as bases they can feel secure to leave when they go off travelling in their campervans or take off overseas," Ms Yarrell said.
"It's all about having the financial freedom to travel and have a home base in a beautiful location."
Age Concern Tauranga chairwoman Angela Scott said the development would offer more choice for older people in the Bay.
"It is always good to hear of something new that gives older people options," she said.
"The fact that it is part of a mixed community is also exciting, it is important for people to keep in touch with their community as they get older."
Ms Yarrell said Papamoa was the obvious choice to launch their model development.
"We have looked at a lot of sites in traditional lifestyle areas around New Zealand, but the combination of community, coast and a great council led us here.
"I am looking forward to bringing councils from right across New Zealand to Papamoa to see our model community."
The Bay of Plenty Times Weekend reported last month that a number of major projects were planned in Papamoa - including a new Catholic private school, two new lifestyle villages including Freedom, a new kindergarten and eventually a shopping centre to rival Bayfair. A new town of 7000 people is also quickly taking shape.