Kāinga Ora buys two Rotorua properties for homeless housing developments

The Government has spent more than $4.6 million buying two more pieces of land in Rotorua that will provide up to 80 houses for the homeless.

Those living next to the developments – on the site of the former English Language Academy on Pukuatua St and on 3ha of empty land on Owhata Rd – have mixed views on their new neighbours.

Some say they’re worried about gang members and the developments eventually becoming “slums” while others say they welcome them because Rotorua desperately needs more houses.

The homes are being built by the Government’s housing arm, Kāinga Ora, and will provide dwellings for homeless people most in need on the Housing Register.

Work will start on the Pukuatua St development next month. The former English Language Academy that sits on the land will be demolished.

The academy has been in hibernation since August last year as a result of the closing of the borders. Kāinga Ora bought the property for $2.3 million.

Kāinga Ora is looking to build 24 one and two-bedroom three-storey apartments with communal green space.

The quick building of three-storeys was made possible two weeks ago when Rotorua Lakes Council joined the Tier 1 major urban centres covered by the medium density residential standards. The standards allow up to three homes of up to three storeys each to be built on most residential sites without resource consent.

Kāinga Ora Bay of Plenty regional director Darren Toy said a geotechnical report was commissioned as part of its “comprehensive” pre-purchase due diligence and took into account geothermal aspects, given Kuirau Park was nearby.

“Ground improvement activity or piling is likely to be needed depending on building loads and this will be factored into the design process,” Toy said.

Construction will start late this year or early next year and the apartments are expected to be finished in 2024.

Site plans would be shared with residents once concepts had been finalised, Toy said.

The Owhata Rd development will see between 50 and 60 houses built on vacant farmland. The types of housing hasn’t yet been determined.

It’s expected to take three years and more information will be shared at a later date.

Toy confirmed the 3ha site had been bought for $2.35 million.

“We’re pleased to have purchased both these properties which will see around another 80 houses built for whānau in Rotorua in need of a place to call home.

“The team is working at pace to get these apartments and houses under way and we’re aiming to have them ready for people to move into in around three years.

“We’re making good progress in getting more people into homes in the city, with these 80 houses on top of the 191 houses which we currently have under construction or in planning in Rotorua.”

Daniel Harvey from Prestige Auto Valet runs his business two doors down from the Pukuatua St development and said it was good news to improve the housing shortage.

He said a lot of people didn’t want these developments next door to them.

“But if everyone does not want it next to them, they will never be built.”

He was personally trying to get on the housing ladder and knew the struggles locally of trying to buy a house at a good price.

“Having more houses is personally better for me and my situation. But overall, we have to do something about the housing shortage or it will never happen.”

John Mansell lives in a flat next door to the English Language Academy and said it would provide a nice change in the area. He said he had been there for 18 years and it was a good area. His only hope was that it didn’t attract any gang members or “party” people.

Another resident of the flats, who didn’t want to be named, said those in the flats were worried about who would be put in the apartments.

Another flat resident said she was disappointed when she got the notice in the mail.

“We don’t want it here, it’s going to cause trouble.”

Peter, who didn’t want his surname published, lives in flats further down Pukuatua St and said he had worked with homeless before and it was “no good lumping them together” with no help to address their drug and alcohol addictions.

“Who is going to monitor them and help them? That’s the thing that’s worrying the neighbours.”

Bessie Carpenter moved to their Eastside rental property six months ago and the rural outlook on Owhata Rd was one of the things that attracted her to the area.

“I loved the view when we moved here.”

She said she found out the land behind had sold to Kāinga Ora not long after moving in.

“We thought ‘oh heck’. I don’t mind that it’s a housing development but I am not happy with who they will put in them. If they put the people in there from the motels, it won’t be good.

“You are just lumping them together and it will turn into a slum eventually.”

In response to residents’ criticism, Toy said Kāinga Ora housed up to 200,000 individuals and families in need of housing.

“The vast majority of these people live well in their homes and are good members of their communities. Ultimately we aim for our homes and communities to be safe and peaceful places to live and our teams work very hard to achieve that.”

He said placements and settling in processes aimed to match people with a suitable home and helped them integrate well into their community.

There is was wraparound support with regular contact.

“When there are issues we act on them quickly, engaging specialist support agencies as needed to help people live well in their homes. We have seen a steady decline in disruptive behaviour complaints since 2017 and have recently made changes that we are hopeful will continue to reduce this further.”

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