Hous­ing help for staff makes a come­back

Sunday News - - FRONT PAGE - CATHER­INE HAR­RIS

A house not too far from work is a pipe dream for many work­ers, but not for De­fence Force staffer Sean Don­ald­son.

Don­ald­son and 11 col­leagues have moved into be­low-mar­ket­price hous­ing from Fletcher Build­ing in the com­pany’s 650-home sub­di­vi­sion near the When­u­a­pai air force base.

Don­ald­son and his wife Dianne had been liv­ing on the air force base with their tod­dler Joshua for five years, which gave them a chance to save a de­posit. How­ever, the max­i­mum they could stay there was six years, so they were des­per­ately on the hunt for new digs.

The area they were keen on was a 50-minute drive away. That­wasn’t close enough for Don­ald­son, who at the time worked in off­shore search and res­cue and had to be within 30 min­utes’ drive of the base­when he was on standby.

‘‘It was very dif­fi­cult be­cause there was just no way we were go­ing to be able to af­ford what we wanted any­where near (the) base.’’

Fletcher’s 88 square me­tre ter­raced house was more com­pact than what they­were look­ing for but ‘‘once we were in here, it was quite sur­pris­ing how com­fort­able we were.’’

The one catch with Fletcher’s of­fer is that those mov­ing in must live there for three years be­fore be­ing able to sell.

Keep­ing key work­ers in the city is a pas­sion project for Steve Evans, head of Fletcher’s res­i­den­tial and devel­op­ment arm. Pre­vi­ously, he formed a com­pany in Lon­don ded­i­cated to find­ing in­ter­me­di­ate hous­ing for core work­ers – ‘‘the nurses, the bus drivers, the clean­ers, the po­lice, the fire­men that are so nec­es­sary to run our ma­jor cities but could not af­ford to live any­where near Lon­don in any de­cent ac­com­mo­da­tion’’.

At the air base, Evans learned that some staff were trav­el­ling long dis­tances to work there.

‘‘A cou­ple of peo­ple said they’d love to be liv­ing here, but can’t, it’s get­ting a bit ex­pen­sive. So we said, ‘let’s have a look at that’.’’

They of­fered the base some of the sub­di­vi­sion’s more af­ford­able houses at just over $600,000 – well be­low the area’s me­dian of $865,000.

Evans says Fletcher Build­ing would like to do more in the key worker space. ‘‘As a com­mu­nity par­tic­i­pant, we’ve al­most got an obli­ga­tion to do some of this. We’d like to be work­ing with gov­ern­ment, work­ing­with other providers to say, ‘how does that work’?’’

AUT con­struc­tion pro­fes­sor John Tookey says as­sisted hous­ing is noth­ing new. It stretched back to of­fi­cers’ messes, po­lice watch houses, nurs­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion and teach­ers’ houses, long since sold off.

To­day’s ver­sion would pos­si­bly take the form of com­pany-sub­sidised hous­ing or gov­ern­ment-backed shared eq­uity loans, to keep the best and bright­est tal­ent – ‘‘par­tic­u­larly if you’re mov­ing them around on a reg­u­lar ba­sis’’.

‘‘We’re go­ing to go for­ward to the past ul­ti­mately. You ei­ther pay peo­ple an enor­mous wage to live in Auck­land, in the same way that you get Lon­don weight­ing, or al­ter­na­tively you sub­sidise their ac­com­mo­da­tion.

‘‘Is there scope to do this more? Ab­so­lutely. We can see a sce­nario par­tic­u­larly for so­cial ser­vices – nurses, am­bu­lance, fire, po­lice, you could­make a case for teach­ers as well – you could make a very strong case to roll this sort of scheme out.’’ LAWRENCE SMITH / STUFF that re­ally does well. There’s no rhyme nor rea­son to what is go­ing to work.’’

But he does ad­mit that he writes not just for the chil­dren but for the adults also. Af­ter all, the foun­da­tion block of chil­dren’s mu­sic is rep­e­ti­tion and it’s that rep­e­ti­tion that can de­stroy the soul of new par­ents.

‘‘I kind of try to have a layer for adults and a layer for kids so that when the adults are lis­ten­ing with their kids, it’s not driv­ing them so nuts and they can get joy out of it as well,’’ ex­plains Smith.

These days, chil­dren’s songs are of­ten cre­ated and cul­ti­vated by a group of hid­den pro­fes­sion­als, just like in the pop world. One of those pro­fes­sion­als is Arthur Bayst­ing, a Nel­son-born award­win­ning chil­dren’s song­writer who is the man be­hind some of the coun­try’smost pop­u­lar kids’ songs.

He’s worked with Suzy Cato and Aus­tralia’s Jus­tine Clarke and has a process that in­volves sit­ting down to write songs at least once aweek, even if ‘‘most never sur­vive’’.

‘‘You need to be able to think like a child, you need to be­come a child and it’s a com­pletely dif­fer­ent uni­verse and the in­ter­est­ing thing is if you lose the child, they are gone. The song has to re­ally make con­nec­tions with them,’’ he says.

‘‘Sim­plic­ity is very

‘ We can see a sce­nario par­tic­u­larly for so­cial ser­vices – nurses, am­bu­lance, fire, po­lice, you could make a case for teach­ers as well.’ You need to be able to think like a child, you need to be­come a child and it’s a com­pletely dif­fer­ent uni­verse.’ CRAIG SMITH

Sean and Dianne Don­ald­son with their 19-month-old son Joshua out­side their new home close to the When­u­a­pai air force base, north of Auck­land.

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