‘No simple answer’
Neighbours to a planned housing development on Gladstone Road feel changes made by Kainga Ora are “token” and do not address their concerns about height and density.
A national housing commentator, however, says there is no simple answer to any social housing developments and Kainga Ora is “damned if they do and damned if they don’t”.
Crown entity Kainga Ora last week applied for resource consent to build 22 homes on Crown-owned land between 675 and 683 Gladstone Road.
In a press release, Kainga Ora said questions and concerns around the height and density had been heard.
But to meet the need for housing in the area it would maintain the proposed mix of heights of homes in the development of one- and two-storey homes, and one three-storey building.
Subject to the plans being approved, Kainga Ora plans for building to start around the middle of this year.
The government agency did make some changes based on feedback from neighbours.
These include external solid timber acoustic fencing to reduce noise, as well as plantings and screens for an extra level of privacy for tenants and those living around the buildings.
A De Costa Avenue resident, whose home will border the development, says it is not enough.
“They’ve listened to a little bit of what we said about privacy but what about the safety of children on Mill Road and how many people they are trying to jam into that area.
“We’re going to end up with broken-down vehicles — you name it.”
Neighbour Jason Birrell said the privacy screen change was an “absolute joke”.
His main concerns were always about the height and the density of the build.
“I keep calling it ‘a people farm’, because that is basically to me what it is.”
The 22 homes, to be built on just over half a hectare (5118 square metres) will have 70 bedrooms for around 100 people.
Owners of neighbouring properties had Zoom meetings during which they raised their concerns about the impact the high-density housing would have on the value of their homes.
Mr Birrell said having only single-level dwellings would fix the height issue and reduce density.
One Roof property commentator Ashley Church said Kainga Ora was “damned if they do, and damned if they don’t”.
“You could take the same block of units and on the one hand it could be magnificent, well-maintained . . . or conversely it could become a ‘slum’. And, bluntly, there is evidence of both around New Zealand.”
Mr Church said the vast majority of state tenants were people just getting on with their lives.
“But if you get a bad tenant, you get complaints, and then you’ve got the whole NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) issue.
“Housing NZ (now Kainga Ora) has built these things over the past 50 years.
“In some cases they’ve given people a start in life but in other instances they have turned into ‘slums’. There is no simple answer.”
Mr Church referred to historical Housing NZ smaller property developments in private sector neighbourhoods about 25 years ago.
The idea was to assimilate people into these areas, he said.
“The only conclusion you could draw is that the track record is probably not flattering with these type of developments but that is perhaps unfair on this particular development.
“It is very easy to take a black and white view on this and you are simply not able to. There are lots of shades of grey.”
Kainga Ora has said the new homes would provide modern, high-quality and healthy homes to those in need.
Kainga Ora - Homes and Communities East North Island regional director Naomi Whitewood said the homes were being built at scale and pace to help meet the increasing housing demand.
The proposed development plans look to provide two, three, four and six-bedroom family homes across a mix of one and two-storey homes and one three-level walk-up building.
“Developments like Gladstone Road will help us provide more warm, dry and healthy homes for whanau and their tamariki, and spaces to support whanau to live well,” she said.
Ms Whitewood said it was too early to tell if there would be any impact from the timber supply shortage.
“We will continue to monitor the current changing situation closely.
“Under the Government’s recently-released Public Housing Plan, around 170 additional public housing places are expected to have been delivered in Tairawhiti by 2024.
“This will be in addition to other housing aspirations that will come to life by iwi, hapu, community providers and private developers across our rohe. Since 2018, Kainga Ora has delivered around 21 new homes in Tairawhiti and we currently have around 75 homes under construction, contract or feasibility stages of development.”
Kainga Ora sought feedback on what was proposed and this helped refine the designs, Ms Whitewood said.
“Some changes were made following this engagement including an updated proposed design for the development, and we are submitting it for resource consent.”
■ The Gisborne Herald reported two weeks ago that there are more than 550 on the social housing waiting list here and around 346 people living in emergency housing arrangements in motels in our region.