Housing help for staff makes a comeback
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.