First owners about to move into Weymouth affordable special housing area which will have 282 homes from $322,000 to $495,000.

On September 19, the first buyers of a new mass-scale affordable special housing area at South Auckland's Waimahia Inlet, on the edge of the Manukau Harbour, are due to move in.

Rent-to-own buyers Lisa Myers and Wirihana Takuira made headlines this month when they met Prime Minister John Key and Housing Minister Nick Smith at the estate, being held up as the first example of the Auckland Housing Accord's success.

When Smith is asked to name one new house finished under the accord, he cites the master-planned estate near Weymouth where 282 houses are planned to rise in just three years on a 16ha site which will have nine roads and a protected stream.

Brian Donnelly, executive director of the New Zealand Housing Foundation, is working with the Tamaki Collective chaired by Paul Majurey, Auckland and Onehunga Hostels Endowment Trust and CORT Community Housing to create the new $120 million estate.


"This is New Zealand's most advanced SHA," says Donnelly on a site tour this week where he showed how site work has started on 18 houses. Nine places are under construction, many advanced.

Ten ways Waimahia breaks the Auckland housing mould

Prices are low - from $322,000 to $495,000 for stand-alone houses, well below REINZ's median in Auckland and QV figures. Prices are less than half other new estates. For example, Long Bay terraced places by Universal Homes are selling for $840,000 to $959,000.

Donnelly: "We're keeping costs down. It's not margin on margin on margin. We're collapsing the delivery chain so we're the provider from the raw land right through to the household."

Ninety-five per cent of Waimahia places are stand-alone separate houses, while Auckland's other vast new housing estates - Long Bay, Stonefields and Hobsonville Point - have hundreds of apartments, townhouses, duplexes and terraced housing, squeezed up tight.

Community housing groups are in charge at Waimahia, not commercial developers. Long Bay and Stonefields are by one of the country's richest families, Todds, and Hobsonville Point is headed by Australian-headquartered AV Jennings working with many different group builders. "We bought the land last year for $9.96 million," Donnelly says. The site was previously state-owned.

Waimahia has two schemes to help buyers who don't have enough money to purchase. Of the 282 places, 100 to 120 will be sold with financial assistance, half under the home saver (rent-to-buy) scheme and the other half as affordable equity (shared or co-ownership), with buyers expected to tap their KiwiSaver for a deposit.

Landlords are banned. "We've had many inquiries from investors, 25 to 50. We're saying sorry, we can't sell these to you. They're not targeted at investors," Donnelly said, explaining owner-occupiers were the target.


Ree Anderson's Housing Project Office at Auckland Council has assisted Waimahia considerably, gathering together many different arms of the territorial authority to speed consents for land use and resource consents. Donnelly: "That has been extremely helpful, with a dedicated team to go through to apply for water, roads and get consent." Quite how helpful being an SHA has been at Waimahia is questionable because planning was well under way before the regime came in, but Donnelly estimates $25 million will be contributed from the Government's Special Housing Unit.

The speed of construction is breathtaking. Builder eHOME can put a four-bedroom house up within 12 hours after weeks of pre-construction in a factory. Donnelly: "These places are pre-fabricated at Kumeu and brought out to the site, then craned up with timber walls and timber roof. We have gone for basic, solid, conventional timber-frame houses. A third of the houses here will be put up within a day, although they've then got to be fitted out."

Only one real estate agency - L.J. Hooker's Manukau office - is marketing the houses and running open homes, although Trade Me, online and print and other forms of advertising have been extensive.

Only three house-builders are on site and they are not such well-known names - eHome, Goodwin Building Services and Goldsmith Developments.

Many of the houses are big, at five bedrooms. Donnelly: "Around 1000 people will live here. Many will have more children than on average, maybe three."He challenges public transport concerns about the distance from the CBD and says Weymouth Rd has regular buses.

If this estate succeeds and is repeated on a wider scale, some progress could be made towards resolving the city's critical affordable housing shortage.

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