A loan scheme I proposed for eco-retrofitting homes with heat pumps, insulation and solar panels is Waikato Regional Council’s (WRC) flagship policy (at no cost to general ratepayers). Now the regional council will consider other ways to help homeowners. It will investigate injecting funds into an affordable housing initiative proposed by the philanthropic organisation Momentum Waikato.
In 2019, as a new councillor, I proposed a targeted rate loan scheme at low-interest rates which would allow homeowners to install a heat pump, solar panels or insulation, upgrade a septic tank, and make other sustainable improvements. Councillors enthusiastically embraced my proposal; it was overwhelmingly supported by the public in submissions and adopted into WRC’s Long Term Plan.
Here is my advert on MoreFM about this
Momentum Waikato is now proposing a Community Investment Fund that would invest in affordable housing outcomes and is seeking a $10 million contribution from WRC as a “cornerstone” investment. Dependent on the form of this funding, a minimum return of 3 per cent would be guaranteed to WRC. Funding is also being sought from the other contributors.
Affordable housing sits in between “social housing” – for the likes of the homeless and those needing emergency accommodation – and market-supplied housing.
There is a severe shortage of affordable homes in the Waikato, including in towns like Thames. Thames Coromandel District Council is currently developing a new housing spatial plan for Thames which has a severe housing shortage. TCDC has also identified that some Thames/Coast homeowners may soon have to move away from the coast as coastal flooding increases due to sea level rise.
A stocktake has identified that the median house price, at more than six times the median household income, is “extremely unaffordable”.
Regional councillors voted in support of funding for Momentum Waikato as a concept and directed staff to further investigate a pathway to contribute to a community impact fund.
A report on the outcome of the investigation will be presented to councillors in next year.