The Block QT


Queenstowners are taking matters into their own hands to beat the sky-high housing market.

A group of house hunters plans to build a ‘co-op urban village’ – mimicking successful similar schemes in Australia and Germany.

The concept takes profit-hungry building developers out of the picture, potentially slashing costs by as much as $150,000 per house.

Five people have formed a steering committee, led by property valuer Melanie Halliday.

“It’s not an affordable housing scheme, just more affordable,” she says.

“There are many people who don’t meet the criteria for help from Queenstown’s housing trust but are still struggling to buy a house.

“Basically by taking out the developer we can save the profit margin – about 20 per cent.

“We can invest in quality design, energy efficiency … we can have more control over the end product.”

The group plans to self-develop medium-density, three-four-storey, terraced-style homes, with some shared communal spaces. It’s eyeing land in Frankton.

The goal is to produce a high-quality, sustainable development for 15 to 30 owner-occupiers – couples, families or individuals.

Queenstown’s councillor John MacDonald, chairman of the mayoral taskforce into the resort’s housing crisis, says: “It’s a fantastic concept.

“Anything creative like this helps. You’re bringing together like-minded people and the thing I like about this model is it creates community.

“You’d like to think they’ll put restrictions around visitor accommodation and things like that.”

Properties could cost $500,000-$650,000 under a shared equity model, with either the landowner or some other ethical investment body retaining a percentage, or $600,000 to $800,000 for full ownership.

The group will form a company with a board and shareholders. Decisions will be made by all on a majority-rules basis.

Then, once titles are issued, the shareholders take ownership of the individual properties themselves. They’ll also form a body corporate.

“We might include an income-earning asset, such as a ground-floor cafe or an office, which offsets the body corporate costs,” Halliday says.

Melbourne architects launched a similar model called Nightingale Housing. It follows the German ‘baugruppen’ model.

“It’s a fantastic example of what can be achieved by people-driven development versus profit-driven.”

The group will draw on the expertise of those involved, be they architects, builders, construction project managers, or those with other skills, and compensate them for their work.

Halliday admits there’s more risk than putting a deposit into buying off-plan.

“This project definitely isn’t for everyone and will require slightly more risk and potentially more effort or commitment.

“Financially you’re taking on more risk because you’re taking on the developer risk. Rather than money sitting in a trust, it’s being used to offset the costs and reduce the construction loan required.

“But the benefit is huge – you get the reward of a house that meets your needs, with all the features, at a much more affordable price than what is out there at the moment.”

Real Estate Institute of New Zealand figures released on Tuesday show Queenstown Lakes District is the third most expensive place to buy in the country with a median house price of $908,000.

Also on the steering committee are property development manager Lauren Christie, registered architect Anya Bell, urban planner Tim Williams and construction project manager Josh Gibbons.

Christie says: “There’s definitely a need there, we know that from our own experiences and the market.

“So it’s about a collective of like-minded people coming together to create efficiencies.”

Gibbons says: “I think we have a social responsibility as industry professionals, and our knowledge and expertise can be used to provide something Queenstown doesn’t have.”

Halliday says the model can be used by other groups of house hunters in future.

Meanwhile, construction has started on the first six homes of Queenstown Community Housing Trust pilot scheme, Secure Home, in Shotover Country. The trust will retain ownership of the land, which is leased on 99-year terms by the property owner.

Such a scheme was one of the key recommendations of the taskforce.

MacDonald says the high price of land and expensive construction costs are the main challenges in creating affordable housing.

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