‘Council shouldn’t be building houses’


Queenstown’s mayor admits housing issues are “fairly drastic” - but reckons council house-building isn’t the answer.

Vanessa van Uden says it’s “not impossible” for the council to build houses, but “it’s not our core business - so it’s not something we should be doing”.

In February, a local affordable housing think-tank handed down its recommendations, including that public/private partnerships be investigated for worker accommodation.

Van Uden - who won’t seek re-election in October - admits that prompted councillors to discuss getting involved in building “as one of a huge amount of options”.

“It’s not being actively pursued.”

So what is the council doing? Plugging extra housing density in the district plan, working to approve more special housing areas and discussing Wakatipu High’s Gorge Road site, which will be vacant when the school moves to Frankton in 2018.

She think it’s realistic to suggest density rules won’t be in place for at least 12-24 months, while a review of visitor accommodation - including Airbnb – will take much longer.

Last October the council proposed watering down its rules on short-stay rentals, but the plan was pulled at the last minute.

Emails released to the Otago Daily Times show the council’s district plan boss Matthew Paetz describing the move as a “disaster for rental housing supply” because it would make the switch from long-term rentals to visitor accommodation a “financial no-brainer”.

Visitor accommodation will now be dealt with in the district plan review’s second stage.

Van Uden says councillors wanted to deal with visitor accommodation - which has taken swathes of houses and rooms from the long-term rental market - but it didn’t properly understand the consequences.

“We were just trying to do something as a knee-jerk reaction, almost, to a situation that was building up.

“You’ve got to be really careful when you regulate and pull the lever that you understand what the unintended consequences are.”

Delays are frustrating, Van Uden says, but processes have to be followed.

“We’d all like to wave our magic wand and solve this problem and make good places for people to live but it’s not an easy one to solve, simply because of the timeframes involved.”

She suggests, not for the first time, district plan rules would come in faster if people withdrew their appeals.