Community needs come first

    Concept illustrations of the planned housing development in Kew, South Invercargill. Between 20 and 30 houses are planned to be built at the former Kew Bowl site. Images: Supplied

    THE Habitat for Humanity development of about 30 houses at the former Kew Bowl site is taking more time than was hoped.

    However, Habitat’s Invercargill general manager Paul Searancke said as a community provider, the volunteer group’s priority was to secure the best outcome for its residents.

    “Things are progressing, not as fast as we would like, but what I don’t want to do is to end up with a poor result for the community by rushing.”

    In 2019, Habitat for Humanity bought the land from the Invercargill City Council for its housing project.

    Between 20 and 30 houses would be built at the site, with a mix of affordable, rental and ownership homes, he said.

    Many groups and people from the community took part in the consultation and a concept plan was created which included 30 houses of different sizes, many green spaces, a playground and a common area for people to meet up.

    Mr Searancke believed the cost of the development was about $12 million but, at this stage, everything was a concept and nothing was set in stone.

    He would like to see construction starting at the site by summer next year.

    However, the group needed at least two things for this to happen, he said.

    First was to have the resolution of an application for a land swap year, the group applied for resource consent to swap the land at 390 Elles Rd with part of Kew Park, McQuarrie St, which is owned by the Crown through the Department of Conservation.

    “You can’t do anything without this access. We have to have this sorted to start any work at the site.”

    Secondly, was to define partners for the project who shared the same values and ideals of the volunteer group, not only looking for financial benefits.

    “Just because people don’t have a lot of money, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have a decent life – and that is our priority.

    “The key thing for us is our responsibility as a community provider to get the best outcomes for our community.”

    He hoped both points could be resolved by the end of the year.

    The aim was to create a “good, long-lasting project” for the community, not just a sticking plaster, to sort out housing issues.

    “This is a development that its primary goal is to help people live with quality. In some ways I know it is taking a long time. We are as frustrated as anybody else, but we need to make sure we are doing what is the best for our community.”

    Southland Housing Action Forum housing champion Anna Stevens echoed Mr Searancke’s comments.

    Since last year, she had worked with him and other developers in the region, to address housing shortages.

    In 2018, the Southland Housing Action Forum released a report which shows housing demand significantly exceeded existing housing stock.

    It states Southland needs about 2500 houses to address the region’s growing housing crisis.

    “The Kew Bowl part is a piece of the puzzle that helps to resolve some of the issues in a wider housing ecosystem by focusing on the community needs rather than the commercial profit.

    “It is very important we get things right from a community perspective because it is a community vested piece of land.”

    Ms Stevens said an update of the housing situation in Southland was expected by the end of the month.