There are a few nice features of the new Christchurch City temporary accommodation scheme that permits the construction of an “accommodation unit”. An accommodation unit is “a structure of no more than 150m² in gross floor area for the purpose of providing temporary residential accommodation. The unit may include facilities normally associated with residential accommodation such as a kitchen, living area, bathroom, toilet and bedrooms. Accommodation unit may also include a campervan or caravan.” There is a fast tracking system for getting pre construction advice and approval in 3 to 5 days – for free. Of course all building consents need to be in place…but this isn’t necessarily a big hurdle for a well designed and well constructed unit.
The problem is that “earthquake related” accommodation units are surrounded by a host of ancillary use constraints and regulations that strangle the (apparent) intentions behind the scheme …: eg whatever faciltiies are constructed must be temporary, one-storey, relocateable, used only for accommodation by and for households directly dislocated by the earthquake, and removed when their temporary need has dissipated or when CERA instructions say so or when CERA is disbanded four years away in April 2016. Consider the financial incentives induced by these regulations:
I estimate the cost of putting a 70 sq metre modern two bedroom “accommodation unit” below my garage out in my home in Governors Bay at around $110k with a separate access drive. I wouldn’t have any trouble at all complying with ALL of the requirements spelled out in the check sheet P033 . We have a large site with well established trees, unbelievable view , the street is quiet, the school is nearby, we’re in the green zone, ….I could go on and on but the long and short of it is we live in a beautiful place.
However, I do not have any specific persons in mind who might be displaced from their homes who I would be able to accommodate – a requirement to comply with the new regulatory policy. Instead I am thinking of temporary (long or short term) rental for people/ families who actually are displaced or for workers who would be employed in the rebuild of the city or Lyttleton Harbour. The current regulations and their implementation prevent me from doing this becasue how am I to verify whether any particular long or short term tenant is actually displaced from their home by the earthquake. And why do I care? For example with rising rents and expiring leases many people/families will be “displaced” and need places to rent – after all there IS a housing shortage! But these people wouldn’t qualify. Moreover, workers, their partners, their families wouldn’t qualify under these rules either!!
I reckon demand would be pretty strong though, given the shortage of decent rentals in good places in Christchurch: say $300 a week for a furnished modern warm self contained accommodation unit. That’s not a bad rate of return on a $100k investment – except for the fact that it wouldn’t last for any longer than 4 years becasue of the “parameters” of the temporary residential housing policy. Why would I ever invest $110k knowing that in 4 years I’d have to remove the “temporary accommodation”?
So…what do we conclude: willing buyers , willing seller but the transactions that would help alleviate accommodation shortages for the next few years are effectively stymied by inadequate regulations . Multiply this 1000 fold and you’ll see why “temporary” inadequate approaches to zoning regulations – ones that don’t challenge the existing order – are a real bottleneck for dealing with rental accommodation shortages.
The plain fact is that the new temporary accommodation orders, while well intentioned, simply avoid the underlying regulatory problems that limit the development of small scale private investments that could do plenty to alleviate our city’s accommodation problems. It’s just old wine in a new wineskin – CERA and the city managers say we’ll facilitate something for you but then enclose it in a shrink wrap agreement that precludes it being used!
The temporary accommodation order itself would have been redundant had the zoning and development regulations been tweaked to permit residential activities to have secondary suites, as in Vancouver and many other Canadian municipalities – something that I am arguing in my other posts..