Housing for former Hamilton 'slum' fast-tracked by Government

Housing New Zealand can now fast-track the Jebson Place consent after the Government approved Hamilton's first special housing Area.

The demolished slum of Jebson Place has been fast-tracked for social housing.

Some of the 80 new homes could even sell for less than $500,000, Hamilton Mayor Andrew King reckons. 

But neighbours fear dozens of new houses crammed into the space could make it as unsavoury as it used to be.

Shannon Reid, who rents one of the neighbouring homes, said new houses might look nice to begin with, but they wouldn't stay nice for long and would be surrounded by the remnants of a rough area.

This week, the Labour Government gave the green light to the 80-home special housing area (SHA), a mix of state housing, affordable private homes and Waikato-Tainui housing for tribal members. 

Hamilton City Council is asking for amendments to allow smaller section sizes, houses built closer to boundaries, and more of the sections covered with bricks and mortar to bring the price of three-bedroom homes below the median Hamilton house price of $537,000.

The Housing New Zealand part of the development would see a number of two-storey social housing units built along Dey Street. 

"Personally, I think it would probably be a waste of time," Reid said. "It might make it flasher. But, then, how long would that last?

"You've got vandalism, you've got burglaries, you've got fighting. That does happen quite a bit around here.

"This place was notorious when those houses were up for being the hood.

"[The new housing] would be run down in a couple of years."

Jebson Place special housing area
An artist's impression of the special housing area to be developed by Housing NZ and Waikato-Tainui.

Council amendments could mean the prices of new three-bedroom homes in the area could be brought below $500,000, King said. 

​"As a part of [Jebson], we are changing our policy to ensure that 40 per cent of what comes back, comes back below the median house price.

"When Government announces KiwiBuild and just what is involved in KiwiBuild, we believe the incentives that central government put up may well pull the price down below $500,000," King said, "which is where we really would want to see them.

"We still don't know what the Government is going to stipulate for KiwiBuild, but we want to be ahead of the game and start delivering. The only tool we've got where we can quickly bypass our district plan and deliver houses at reasonable prices is to use this special housing legislation."

The Waikato-Tainui part of the development will have more than 50 free-standing dwellings and the iwi intends to build affordable housing for tribal members, while some of the subdivided lots will be sold on the open market.

Housing New Zealand and Waikato Tainui development has been slow to get sign-off from a transitioning government.

But SHA approval means the project - originally consented as a 71-dwelling, $7 million development - can be fast-tracked to market.

It's just the start, King said. There's another six SHA applications in front of council - three coming up in the months ahead with "several thousand houses combined" in the pipeline.

Resource consents will be accelerated and allow the development to be built at a higher density.

Work on the 2.4-hectare triangular site bounded by Old Farm Road, Cassidy and Dey streets could start within the year.

"It just takes time to get the building permit in place and it's really up to the developer now," King said.

"It's really exciting ... It's the first SHA that's been signed off. It's taken too long to get this far, but at least we have here and we've been assured from now on, it will come through a lot quicker."

Jebson Place has been vacant since the 1950s and '60s-era houses were torn down in June last year. Now there's a clear grassy patch of land where they used to be. 

Another neighbour living nearby, who didn't want to be named, said while it made sense to add houses, 80 was too many. 

While there's still a bit of gang activity in the area, the open park-like patch of land means people feel safer, he said. 

Reid agreed the open space was an improvement.

"It was really rough, graffiti and everything," Reid said. "It was pretty horrid. There's less vandalism and stuff now that those houses are gone ... It's actually quietened down incredibly.

"It's really nice having that park there. You see a lot of people walking their dogs and stuff."

And the view of a park was nicer than shabby two-storey units looming over the surrounding homes. 

But newcomers won't stick around once it goes downhill again, Reid said.  

"[It] would be just the taxpayers paying that."

Council will meet on May 10 to consider new SHA proposals. 

From Stuff.co.nz