Hamilton will begin talks with Government officials immediately to ensure Hamilton gets a fair shot at the Government’s contestable infrastructure fund.
The $3.8 billion fund was announced today as part of a suite of changes aimed at addressing New Zealand’s escalating housing crisis. Criteria for the fund has yet to be set but the Government has indicated the first tranche of money may be released in the second half of the year.
“Hamilton and the wider region have been very, very clear with Government that councils are hamstrung by the issue of infrastructure. Councils can’t open up land for housing unless services like roads and water are in place but the costs to do that are massive – simply unaffordable.”
“So this new fund is welcome although we will want to see more detail around what it means. But yes, our focus will be on ensuring we get our fair share of the money available.”
Southgate said the city and wider region has already done much of the ground work to react quickly to today’s announcement. The region has been proactive in tackling this issue and has an existing Urban Growth Partnership with Government already in place.
“Hamilton and the wider region is well placed to make a strong case in Wellington. We have already worked closely with the Government, with neighbouring councils and with Waikato-Tainui to put in place a robust planning framework that Government has signed off on.”
“I’m hopeful the city will do well out of today. We have a track record of delivering on things like the Housing Infrastructure Fund which allowed us to get Peacocke up and moving so we know how to get things done,” she said.
“But let’s not forget, at the end of the day this about getting more people into homes and helping first-home buyers get into the market. Let’s not lose sight of that. Let’s also not forget that we currently have 1,200 people in emergency housing motels in Hamilton and surrounds and no-one in our city is comfortable with that.”
Last year a record 1,406 new homes were consented in Hamilton with more coming down the pipeline. There are more terraced and duplex housing as developers react to changing regulations to help encourage density. The city estimates it will need about 12,500 houses over the next 10 years, although some people believe that figure is conservative, she said.
The city currently has ready-to-build land equivalent to about 3,000 sections.
“Speeding up development in these areas will help although developers will do this at their own pace. But the big gains from more new houses will only come when key infrastructure is in place. That’s what this fund will help deliver,” she said.
“Housing is a complex issue and we have always said it is about much more than zoning. Our Council is pleased Government has heard that message and has now acted on it.”
Southgate said while today’s announcements were welcome, she remains concerned about housing affordability and land-banking in the city.
“I have yet to get across the detail but I do know the median house price in Hamilton in February was $750,000 and that may not change quickly.
“That’s a stretch for anyone and completely out of reach for many people. So while I welcome the help for first home buyers announced today, I think there will be a lot of work to do yet.”
She noted the region already has regional housing initiative in place which takes a Waikato-wide view of housing needs and is in line with Government thinking. In addition, Council has set aside $2 million in a Waikato Community Land Trust to support social housing.
From the Office of the Mayor