Construction of high-rise apartments on two prime lots in central Whangārei is being explored as part of Kāinga Ora's plans to built 235 homes across Northland over the next three years.
The Crown agency, formerly Housing New Zealand, is interested in buying the Vinery Lane carpark site and another on Dent St, next to Almond Court flats, and has started discussions with the Whangārei District Council.
The proposal is contained in the draft Te Tai Tokerau Regional Plan which was outlined by Kāinga Ora chief executive Andrew McKenzie and Northland director Jeff Murray to Whangārei District Councillors at a recent workshop.
Murray said Kāinga Ora could use land on Vinery Lane and Dent St as public homes, market homes or Kiwibuild homes, or any mix of these types.
At this stage, he said discussion was purely around getting WDC's agreement in principle to a proposal for high-rise residential development in the CBD, on land it owned.
WDC chief executive Rob Forlong said the council would be able to consider future use of the Dent St site within the next few weeks.
He said quite a number of parties have expressed interest in purchasing the sites encompassing the flats and the piece of land beside them for development.
NorthChamber chief executive Stephen Smith is in favour of diversity and says any apartment in the city should preferably house a mixture of the homeless, working class struggling to find rentals, first-home buyers, and students.
"The nature of development is critical and I hope Kāinga Ora talks to the community on what's in it they want. It's apparent that the method used to develop housing in New Zealand is linear, whereas other countries have got ahead and are focusing on development of scale.
"So we need to have diversity and look at things like culture and wealth. Then you're building a community and not something in isolation. The last thing you want is a particular portion of the population jammed together," Smith said.
One Double Five Community House chief executive Liz Cassidy-Nelson said it would be wonderful to have mixed-model housing in central Whangārei that would also help alleviate homelessness.
"In a moment of crisis, we shouldn't be judging people without a home. As an organisation, we'll support families and individuals that go into these apartments because we need to get people out of cars and couch surfing.
"A good thing about the location of the proposed apartments is they will be close to the resources such as schools which removes a cost to people," she said.
The draft Public Housing Plan, subject to approval by the Kāinga Ora board, calls for between 230 and 380 homes in Northland, of which 311 will be built by Kāinga Ora.
Seventy six of the 311 homes were built by June this year while the remaining 235 would be constructed over the next three years.
Two-thirds will be one to two bedrooms, about a quarter will be three bedrooms, and the rest four bedrooms or more.
Around one third of the new builds will be in the Far North district and the rest in Whangarei.
None has been planned for Kaipara where Kāinga Ora currently owns 117 of the 2254 homes in Northland.
Whangārei has 1450 public houses and the Far North 687.
The Crown entity provides homes to about 6600 people in Northland. About two-thirds are Māori, and half are single parents with one or two children.
According to the plan, significant recent and projected population growth is putting upward pressure on house prices and rents across the region.
With the median house price in Northland sitting at $667,000 as at the end of May, Kāinga Ora said the price far exceeded median household income of $68,4000.
An analysis by the Ministry of Social Development has identified that Northland is "missing" 4500 homes in the social/affordable bracket and there are potentially big challenges around land supply, infrastructure, and securing tradespeople for delivery.
Murray said Kāinga Ora was in discussions with other councils in Northland, iwi, and landowners about potential development sites.
In Whangārei, Kāinga Ora is currently constructing 15 one-bedroom duplexes, four two-bedroom duplexes, one three-bedroom standalone house, six three-bedroom duplexes, eight four-bedroom duplexes and three five-bedroom standalone homes on 3.2ha of land on Puriri Park Rd zoned for residential housing.
The first seven homes which make up stage 1 are being built now and the project will be completed in three stages by mid-2022.
Kāinga Ora has secured resource consent to build 20 homes on Pearce Dr in Kamo. Work is likely to start late in spring or early summer.
Apart from building new, Kāinga Ora plans to refit about 140 homes in Northland by 2024.