Building in district being outpaced by demand

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JACK.CONROY@nullcluthaleader.co.nz

Clutha has reached a ‘‘tipping point’’ for new housing requirements, its mayor says.

The popularity of recent Clutha District Council-backed projects initiated to address a chronic housing shortage in the area was proving a “double-edged sword”, Mayor Bryan Cadogan said.

The council’s Plantation Heights subdivision in Balclutha could already be seen as an ‘‘overwhelming success”, he said.

“Coming straight out of [Alert Level 4] we were just inundated with people wanting to buy, so we’re going through the process now of subdividing seven of the half-acre sections into 14 quarter-acre sections.”

Mr Cadogan said expressions of interest were vastly outpacing the number of available sections.

“If we don’t have continuity to the supply of sections, we’re going to shoot ourselves in the foot, and I believe that dynamic is already playing out.”

Thousands of jobs had become available in the district over the past few years, but it was difficult for those employed to find somewhere to live.

The issue was highlighted during a recent Meet the Candidates night for aspiring Taieri electorate MPs, held in Balclutha.

For the council, the balancing act involved building enough new properties for new workers, maintaining a competitively priced housing market, while also not pricing first-time homebuyers out of the market.

Another council-backed venture was the Kaitangata house-and-land package project, started in 2018.

“We’ve got one being built at the moment that’s already sold, and another starting in November that’s already sold too,” project co-ordinator Evan Dick said.

The current build, in Eddystone St, had been sold to an ex-Kaitangata couple now able to move back to the area.

“It’s great having a young couple come back to Kai to live,” Mr Dick said.

The project kept “ticking away” as two or three houses were built per year.

“It’s positive, it’s good for the town, there are things happening. There are other people building houses as well, not just us, there’s stuff happening all over the place.”

Mr Cadogan said developments were under way in other parts of Clutha, such as Lawrence and Milton, but a ‘‘tipping point’’ had been reached beyond which outside help might be necessary to keep momentum going.

“We’re in that zone where the pricing has come up enough that developers may be interested.”

Support from central government would also be crucial to maintaining the district as a desirable place to live, Mr Cadogan said.

Government-supported projects such as the Balclutha Community Hub, the Clutha Gold Cycle Trail extension, and destination toilets for Balclutha and Milton had helped shift perceptions about the district.

“Over the past three years, we’ve had an enormous amount of support from central government that is fundamental to our ability to identify the issues and change them round in our district. We really need that to continue.”