In 2019, Enterprise Great Lake Taupo commissioned BERL to undertake a research and review project to both identify issues within our housing market and make recommendations for improvement. The research was undertaken in two phases. We are now working with key stakeholders in our community to develop and implement the recommendations.
The Phase One report presents the findings of a statistics-based assessment of housing conditions in the District, the findings of a series of discussions with an interest in housing issues locally, and a summary of the proceedings at a workshop to consider the assessment and discussion findings.
It also draws some conclusions and makes some recommendations for the second phase of work. The second phase looks closely at potential strategic actions to improve housing for the benefit of all in the District.
The analysis in the report distinguishes, where possible, between Taupō District as a whole and, within the District, the Taupō area (i.e. the communities living at or around the northern end of the lake) and the Turangi area (i.e. at the southern end). Within the Taupō area, conditions in the Mangakino sub-area are highlighted, where possible.
The key findings from the Phase One Report were as follows:
There are strong socio-economic contrasts within the District. Although there are pockets of disadvantage throughout, the southern part of the District is considerably more deprived than the northern part. This is reflected in housing conditions and housing affordability.
The zoning of land for residential purposes is not a major issue. Rather, the problem is the cost of developing the land and of building houses.
There is a severe shortage in the District of public housing for disadvantaged and vulnerable families and individuals.
There is also a severe shortage of affordable rentals and home-ownership opportunities for lower and middle-income households.
Airbnb has had a major effect on the rental market, with some dire consequences for families who have lost homes they had been renting long term. However, it is recognised that other factors (such as higher quality standards required for rental properties, and greater protection of tenants’ rights) might also be influencing the supply of rentals.
The key statistics from the housing assessment (Phase One Report) are as follows:
The estimated mid-2019 population of the District is 37,466, of which 86.5 percent live in the Taupō area and 13.5 percent live in the Turangi area. Roughly two percent of the population lives in the Mangakino sub-area.
The District’s population increased by almost 12 percent between 2006 and 2019, but the Taupō area’s population increased by 14 percent, while the Turangi area’s population decreased by one percent. Mangakino population decreased by 26 percent.
Most of the population growth came between 2013 and 2019. During this period, the Turangi area’s population recovered somewhat.
The proportion of the District’s population living in rented accommodation increased significantly between 2006 and 2019. This was true of both the Taupō and Turangi areas, and the Mangakino sub-area.
Home ownership increased only among the population aged 65 years and over.
Statistics New Zealand projections indicate that the District’s population will peak at 39,100 in 2038 and gradually decline thereafter.
Between 2006 and 2019, the number of households in the District increased more rapidly than the population. This implies a decrease in the average household size.
Between 2006 and 2019, the number of dwellings in the District increased at the same rate as the number of households (i.e. faster than the population).
Just less than 32 percent of the dwellings in the District are unoccupied (or, rather, not permanently occupied). This proportion has continued to creep up over time.
It is estimated that there are roughly 2,000 very short-term rentals (Airbnb etc.) in the District.
The number of residential building consents granted in the Distinct fell sharply between 2008 and 2013, and then recovered rapidly.
The significance of this is that the number of consents appears to be extremely sensitive to the general economic situation. And the implication is that the number of consents could decrease quickly in the event of an economic downturn, followed shortly afterwards by a decrease in building activity in the District.
Roughly 1.1 percent of the dwellings in the District are public housing (Housing NZ and Community Housing Providers). This compares with approximately 3.6 percent at national level.
Dwelling conditions and housing deprivation
Little is known about these two issues in the District, but research based on 2006 Census data, and earlier, found that overcrowding had decreased. It is suspected, however, that overcrowding has increased again recently.
Average house prices in the District increased by 23 percent between 2006 and 2019, but they actually fell between 2006 and 2013, before increasing rapidly between 2013 and 2019. It is not known what happened to prices in the two main areas within the District.
Average rents in the District increased by 88 percent between 2006 and 2019, albeit a little faster than this in Turangi and Mangakino.
Average household incomes in the District increased by almost half during the same period, although the increase in the Turangi area was just 25 percent. Incomes almost doubled in the Mangakino sub-area.
These data imply that home ownership affordability in the District increased between 2006 and 2019, although affordability is likely to have reduced in the past few years. The data also imply that rental affordability has decreased significantly, especially in the Turangi area.
The Phase One Report recommended that the second phase should investigate the potential in Taupō District to:
Develop community housing to provide homes and associated support for the most vulnerable groups.
Build affordable rental homes for families on lower incomes.
Facilitate home-ownership for families who can service a mortgage, or part of a mortgage, but who cannot accumulate the deposit.
Support the development of papakāinga housing.
Support action by major employers in the District to improve the supply of housing for staff.
Based on some additional online research and interviews with relevant organisations both in Taupō District and elsewhere in New Zealand, the report concludes that the establishment of a Community Housing Provider (CHP), or several CHPs, might be the best way of addressing the needs identified in the first three points above. CHPs are able to generate full market rental revenues from their housing because they can access the government’s Income Related Rent Subsidy Scheme (IRRS). Councils are unable to use the scheme. In addition, CHPs can often operate more flexibly than Councils can, by leveraging their assets to develop additional housing. Several examples were found of how CHPs elsewhere in New Zealand have been able to do this.
The report also notes that it is encouraging that the Council has helped to establish a Papakāinga Working Group in the District, although it is too early in the Group’s life to make specific suggestions or recommendations about the issue at this stage.
The report cites examples from elsewhere of employers developing housing for their employees, but it questions whether there are employers in the District that might be able to follow suit. Based on work for Tourism Industry Aotearoa, it is also concluded that this is not an issue that warrants a public policy response.
Click below to read the combined Phase One and Phase Two reports.