Hamilton City Council has approved six applications under its new Special Housing Area criteria despite questions over affordability. The council vote unanimously on Wednesday to take five applications into further evaluation while Waikato Tainui's application for housing development in Jebson Place, Hamilton East, was recommended to the Minster for Building and Construction so that a Special Housing area could be established. Of the six applications, only two had a target to build affordable dwellings within the development area. Jebson Place will have dwellings intended for residents with lower income while on Tawa Street, Melville, Gallagher Group has teamed up with Habitat for Humanity to build affordable dwellings. Special Housing Areas may be created on land put forward for development that may not be zoned residential. The policy was created to enhance housing affordability by facilitating an increase in land and housing supply. Councillor Mark Bunting previously tried to amend the Special Housing accord to include 20 per cent of affordable dwellings per site and was concerned that an increase in supply would not help affordability. "I am very cynical if this does enough to address affordability," Cr Bunting said on Wednesday. "Yes it increases supply but I certainly do not believe it goes anywhere near the amount of supply to tackle affordability." City planner Luke O'Dwyer, who prepared the SHA report, said that it is unlikely that any of the other four applications would tackle affordability.
"We need to create communities not just housing areas.""It is difficult to say with any confidence at all the degree which any other of those housing locations would be affordable," Mr O'Dwyer said. Councillor Bunting was not alone with his concerns about affordable housing as Councillor Paula Southgate also raised the issue. Councillor Southgate said the council needed to do better with the high density housing areas the city already has. "We need to create communities not just housing areas," Cr Southgate said. "I'm not confident that in the short term that we will see this make any difference to housing affordability." "The smaller houses have been taken up by people who need them at higher costs." Councillor Siggi Henry said that the 20 per cent affordable housing should possibly be looked at again in the near future. Affordability was not the only thing on the minds of councillors. Councillor James Casson raised concerns over crime in high density areas. "We have to be careful with high density housing as it does breed crime. It has been proven in places like Los Angeles and London," Cr Casson said. "When people live on each other's door steps it does breed crime and for me personally I would not like to live in a high density area like that." Councillor Geoff Taylor said the response to Special Housing has been good and he was happy with the applications already submitted. "It's heartening to see if you add them all up you are looking at 2000 more units added to the city," Cr Taylor said. "I note that two of the SHA's address low income housing to some extent, which is a start I guess." Councillor Garry Mallett said that do something is better than doing nothing to fix affordable housing. "You won't get free houses and you won't have a sudden drop in the housing market but you will reduce the cost of housings with all other things being equal then if you do not do this," Cr Mallett said. "It is not the answer but it is better than us doing nothing." Mayor Andrew King was delighted with where the city was heading. "This will fill the hole in the market for the next one to five years until the next growth cell that comes along which will carry us for five to 20 years." "A lot of these houses are affordable. By increasing supply it will control pricing." Applications were for Gilbass Avenue (Hamilton Lake), Maui Street and Eagle Way (Pukete), Te Awa Lakes (Near Horotiu), Rotokauri North, Tawa Street (Melville), Jebson Place (Hamilton East). The vote was 10-0 in favour with Councillors Angela O'Leary and Rob Pascoe absent.