Wellington City Council partners with developers to ease rental crisis in Wellington

The conversion of Wellington office blocks into “affordable” apartments is getting under way.

The Wellington City Council has teamed up with developers to convert an inner-city building in an effort to tackle the capital’s growing housing crisis – with no additional cost to ratepayers.

The partnership is understood to be the first model of its kind in the country, with more in the pipeline.

The council has entered into a 15-year lease agreement with The Wellington Company’s initiative, Te Kainga, which aims to provide affordable rentals to key workers in the CBD.

It will see the council sublet 35 units in Freemason House, which will be called Te Kainga Aroha – a name gifted by mana whenua.

The development at 195 Willis St would be a mixture of one, two and three bedrooms.

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester said the rental market was broken and the initiative would break the mould and create another option.

“If we keep doing things in the same way, we will end up with the same outcomes.”

It would “wash its own face”, coming at no cost to ratepayers, he said.

 It would start at market rate and become progressively more affordable over time because of the lower rate of rental increase, he said.

The council already houses about 3400 tenants in its portfolio of 2090 social housing properties, making it the second biggest landlord in the country.

The units would be at the higher end of the council’s housing spectrum but still affordable, he said.

Tenants’ rents will be tied to increases to the Consumer Price Index and not the market rate. Tenants will have to meet certain criteria to be eligible for the units.

Rents had not yet been set but he expected it could be about $270 a room.

“It is the first small step, I want to deliver many more,” Lester said.

This development was a pilot project that would inform final policy being developed around more apartment conversions.

Delivering inner-city conversions is part of the Wellington Housing Strategy, Housing Action Plan and is one of Wellington City Council’s priorities.

“We want people who work in the city to be able to live in the city. Any city needs a range of rentals and this will help address that.”

The developers had committed to meeting the council’s rental WOF. They will also pay for free Wifi, rubbish facilities and a gas and hot water system.

A New Zealand-first model to help bring more affordable and quality rental accommodation to the central city has been unveiled in Wellington at Freemason House on Willis St.

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