More than 100 people are now settled into New Zealand's tallest social housing tower after the Ted Manson Foundation finished the first block in $100 million plans to vastly increase supply.
Ted Manson, the high-rise specialist and head of New Zealand's largest private development business, Mansons TCLM, took the Herald on a tour of the foundation's new 18-level, 92-unit Life Apartments at 38a Liverpool St, off K'Rd, in the central city.
Seventy-three apartments are social housing units managed by Australia's Compass Housing Services and leased to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development.
The remaining 18 units on the top levels are for private sale: 12 have been sold, six conditionally, six unconditionally and the rest priced from $400,000 to $954,000.
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Bettyanne Crawford, Life's tenancy relationship officer, said refugees and migrants from Syria, Iraq, Ethiopia and Palestine lived in Life, moving in during September and October.
"We have taken a lot of people off the housing register and work with different support agencies, bringing people in to view the property and signing them up," she said of the settlement process.
"I see lives that have changed, just by them moving in here," she said.
One resident had been sleeping in the Symonds St Cemetery. Another brought his sleeping bag into his new unit, saying he wanted to look at the Sky Tower, Crawford said.
"It's made so much difference. We have a lot of males and just them having a roof over their heads has made a difference. Residents were now safe and because many were older, realised street life was untenable for them".
Research on apartment living identified loneliness as a problem, so a common room has kitchen seating, magazines, games and free bread and hot pastries from surplus food at Cordis Hotel Auckland.
Manson is proud of the project, designed by Paul Brown Architects: "No one else in New Zealand can do this because they don't have the capital. I can do it because I've done very well in my life and I'm into giving back."
But Life Apartments was not without challenges: "It's the hardest thing I've ever done in my life, dealing with the Government. It took 18 months of negotiation to start with and another six months before the lease was signed."
CMP Construction built the tower, which has a 25-year exterior maintenance contract, Manson said.
The Mansons were on last year's NBR Rich List with an estimated $950m and a Herald property power list ranked them No 1 in the private sector.
"The Life project cost me $33 million, plus the site, so it owes me $35 million," Manson said.
At Glen Eden, practical completion is about to be achieved at the $180m, 165-unit Westlight, the foundation's second project. That was more expensive because apartments had decks, two buildings were developed linked by an atrium, the design was far more complicated than Life and it was so much bigger, Manson said.
However, the facade cost also rose by $8m when the foundation was required to upgrade materials from its original resource consent to deaden the noise from two diesel freight trains which use the line beside the block twice a day.
Manson said he saw the high need for social housing and quickly made it his goal "to build as many apartments as possible. It is an honour for me to have the money and time at this stage of my life to give back and make a difference. Thousands of good people out there devote their time to helping others."
But he said not enough wealthy people gave and he called for more to help the less fortunate.
A Ministry of Housing and Urban Development spokesperson said apartments were being leased for 25 years and demand was high for central-city units.
"Tenants come from the housing register. The people living in the units are individuals, couples, and small families. They are likely to already live and work in the local community, with children going to local schools. Smaller one-bedroom units are in demand and location is valuable near services and in places where transport is available," he said.
Manson said TMF Liverpool Limited had leased 73 of the 92 apartments to the ministry for a 25-year term, "with the rents paid by HUD being tied to the market rental figures recorded by the MBIE each year in its handling of residential tenancy bonds. HUD have in turn engaged community housing provider Compass Housing Services to provide letting and tenancy management services, thereby enabling HUD to provide the apartments as social housing for up to 73 families and individuals in need."