Welcomed by some and dreaded by others – a new 45-unit public housing complex in central New Plymouth is ruffling its neighbors before its foundations have even been poured.
The three-storey social housing development is being built by Soho Group Ltd, on the corner of Leach and Cameron streets, and is due to be completed by the middle of next year.
The two-block complex, which will be managed by Kāinga Ora, will consist of 23 two-bedroom units and 22 one-bedroom units. The units are intended to be long-term housing for public housing and will be matched with individuals and families on the Housing Registry.
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Some neighbors have raised concerns about the lack of consultation and the impact of social housing on their property values, in an area where some homes are worth more than $1 million.
Others hailed the development, saying people in need should have a place to call home, and criticized their neighbors for judging the complex before it was built.
As a result, Kāinga Ora – Homes and Communities, who will own the property, plans to hold an online information session to give the community an opportunity to ask questions.
Plymouth Motorcycle Center new owner Derek Hosking is among those with concerns.
Hosking’s business, which he started more than 25 years ago, sits alongside development – he even sold a section in Soho.
His initial understanding was that “high-end apartments” were being built.
This Kāinga Ora social housing development in Rangiora, by Rohan Collett Architects, won a Housing – Multi Unit award. (Video first published in March 2022)
When someone from the council told him the plans, he said his first reaction was, “Total disaster, why did I do this?”
Hosking feared he had “helped depress house prices” in the area and felt “frustrated” that he and other neighbors had not been consulted.
He said he was also worried about the “security aspect” of his business if “there were the wrong people”.
Other business owners and neighbors who spoke to Thing but did not want to be named, shared similar views to Hosking.
But Jaidene McDowell, who has lived in the area for about six months, thought otherwise.
“It would be great to have these homes for people who have nowhere to live.”
The 20-year-old, who lives in Lemon St with his daughter Aria D’Ath, 1, compared the development to a new neighbor moving in next door.
“I get that some people can be in trouble. But if you don’t want anything to do with them, then don’t.
An elderly woman, who had lived in a state house in the area for 20 years and asked not to be named, had heard that neighbors were unhappy with the development.
“People can be so judgmental, looking through their noses. They judge them right before they even come here.
New Plymouth Mayor Neil Holdom said tackling the public housing shortage with such developments, while easing neighbours’ concerns, was a “tough balancing act”.
“These are our people,” he said. “We have to welcome them. We need to invest in social housing.
Latest figures from Te Tūāpapa Kura Kāinga, Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, show there were 773 Taranaki people on the public housing register in March.
Holdom said he also understood why people nearby had concerns and said it was “disappointing” that neighbors said they were not informed or consulted.
He didn’t think the location of such a large complex was “quite appropriate”, as the area was already congested.
Additionally, there was only room for about 18 car parks at the site, which is allowed by government policy but “will have a negative impact,” Holdom said.
However, he said some of the problems the neighbors predicted “will not materialize”.
Soho development manager Brad Davis said there was an “initial kick” when the company began developing public homes, but there was also “positive feedback”.
However, as Kāinga Ora took over the properties, he could not give insight into how other developments had been received once occupied.
In an emailed statement from the Kāinga Ora media team, Taranaki, Whanganui and Manawatū regional manager Graeme Broderick said he was aware of the concerns.
Broderick said the usual process when Kāinga Ora reviewed developments on his own land included “early engagement with the local community, to keep them informed and allow them to provide feedback”.
However, with developments like this, which the government agency did not own until it was built, “our ability to undertake early engagement is not always possible,” he said.
Broderick said they will hold an information session later this month.
Correction: Units are intended to be long-term housing for social housing, not short-term rentals as mentioned in an earlier version of this story.