Free land, helping hand

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Queenstown strugglers will be helped into new homes with gifts of prime council land.

That’s the upshot of a move approved at last month’s meeting of Queenstown Lakes District Council.

Ratepayers can expect super sites on Queenstown Hill or at the old Motor Park on Man Street to be donated to the Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust, a QLDC quango providing subsidised housing.

Council land on Queenstown Hill and the old Motor Park feature in a report tabled at the QLDC meeting, plus sites in Arrowtown and “pieces of land that emerge as surplus to requirements”.

What’s behind it all is a contentious QLDC levy forcing private developers to give free or heavily-discounted land – or its cash equivalent – to the housing trust when new subdivisions and other developments are consented.
Developers are challenging the levy in court so QLDC must get its house in order on its own developments to show fair play.

Last month’s council report calculates the levy as “approximately 3.5 per cent of the residential market value” of a development.

According to a formula in the report, a 100-lot subdivision would see developers – including QLDC – allocate four sites to the housing trust.

Even these days, Mountain Scene has been told, a Queenstown Hill section would go for at least $600,000.

When the property market picks up again and QLDC secures a partner for its giant 350-unit development at the old Motor Park, land or cash for about 14 units would also be gifted to the trust.

QLDC’s generous move comes shortly after the council announced a $6.1 million loss for its June 30 fiscal year. Its housing quango has assisted more than 30 low- and medium-income Wakatipu and Wanaka families since 2006.

Five families have been put into new homes at its most recent project at Lake Hayes Estate – at least three of those families should be in by Christmas, trust chair David Cole says.

At $455,000 each, the three-bedroom, two-bathroom LHE houses were promoted on the trust website as available on a $25,000 deposit – with the trust kicking in $150,000 as co-owner and residents paying off a $280,000 mortgage.