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Proposed Special Housing Areas in Thorndon and Tawa met with calls for affordibility

Some relief for Wellington's housing shortage could come from new apartment blocks in Thorndon and Tawa, but questions are being raised over the affordability of the proposed extra homes.

The sites – at 3 George St, Thorndon and 4 William Earp Place, Tawa – have been earmarked by the private owners as new potential Special Housing Areas (SHA).

Deputy Mayor Paul Eagle, chairman of the council's housing taskforce, said many councillors wanted to see developers with SHAs include affordable housing in some of their future plans.

"There has never been a more urgent time for supply that includes a mix of affordable housing. This reflects the desires of the current council and the need of the city."

SHAs allow fast- tracking of certain residential developments as a quicker alternative to the Resource Management Act and gives developers the ability to push through applications without the need for public notification.

The council entered into an agreement with the Government in June 2014 to increase housing supply in the city but there were no specific provisions for affordable housing levels.

Affordable housing meant the sale cost would have to be below the median house price for Wellington - which in January 2017 was $530,175.

Since 2014, the council has recommended four areas, totalling 25 sites in the city that includes several green fields in the northern suburbs, land on Adelaide Rd and the Arlington apartments.

Some developers who were previously approved for SHAs took longer than expected to lodge applications for resource consent and missed a deadline.

So the council will nominate a fifth tranche to the Minister of Building and Construction, seeking approval for the proposed new sites and a 'roll-over' and re-approval of a number of SHAs that had lapsed.

The new deadline for SHA consents will be December this year.

Presbyterian Support Central property director Chris Graham said it was early days for the Thorndon site that was zoned as inner residential.

The organisation was waiting on the outcome of its SHA application but if successful, the former Ministry of Works depot, which was 2728 square metres, could be converted apartments with office space.

Social housing would not be a consideration for the large industrial building, he said.

"It's very early days. We are assessing potential redevelopment options for all 20 of our properties in the lower North Island. These are changing times and funds are tight, so we have got to work with our property assets."

The SHA was attractive because it would be easier but would still need to comply with the district plan, he said.

Eagle said lessons had been learned from the controversial Mary Potter apartment complex in Newtown.

The proposed apartment building was dealt a blow when it is forced into limited notification with neighbours, many of whom have been deeply critical of the project for months.

Thorndon residents had been consulted about the site becoming a SHA and approved, he said.

"We want to warn developers who get SHAs that there is an expectation for them to still work with the local community."

The council would not approve more SHA applications if there was no community consultation, he said.

"These need to be handled with care. The community can not be shut out."

Wellington City Council will consider and approve applications at a City Strategy Committee meeting on Thursday.
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