by Rowan Quinn of RNZ
An Auckland developer who is being prosecuted for charging affordable home buyers extra for driveways and landscaping says he wants to repay them.
Imperial Homes, its two directors and a sales agent have been charged with 42 counts of breaching the Resource Management Act Scott Point development in Hobsonville.
They were given consent to build affordable homes at no more than $636,000 under Special Housing area rules but then charged the first home buyers extra for basic landscaping.
That pushed the homes well outside affordability criteria.
A director, Andy Zhu, said he wanted to avoid court and was planning to repay the homes owners affected.
The company had been acting on legal advice that "affordable" applied only the house itself, nothing else, so thought it was entitled to charge extra, he said.
The prosecution was unfair because the Auckland Council had seen its plans at the time and had never objected, Zhu said.
Auckland Councillor, Chris Darby, did not want to respond to the criticisms because the matter was before the court.
But the investigation had been very thorough and he was confident the council had a strong case, he said.
"This affects a lot of people that are vulnerable - this is their first home and I feel sorry for them. We needed to make sure we had our "i"s dotted and our "t"s crossed."
A buyer, Jonathan Jansen, said he was glad someone was being held accountable.
"I really hope this sends a message that affordable homes and first home buyers aren't just easy prey and aren't just going to be left out to dry when this stuff happens," he said.
Another buyer said she was relieved the council was finally taking action but was frustrated it had taken so long.
The first complaints were made about a year ago.
Special Housing Areas which were created by the last government to increase the housing supply, with developers given fast tracked consents in return for providing some affordable homes for first home buyers.
They were seen by many as unsuccessful and were no longer being created - but some developments which were granted consent at the time were still being built under those rules.
Jansen said the change made it harder to seek redress.
"We've bought a house under a set of legislation that has now been abandoned... That was part of the struggle with the council, to try to talk to a team that's been disassembled or to try to escalate this to someone who doesn't exist anymore," he said.