The Housing Crisis - A Solution

30.04.2021

What can a seven-year-old boy teach a Christchurch MP about community housing? Frank Film investigates.

A cluster of inner city townhouses has solved a single parent’s search for a home and may hold an answer to Christchurch’s housing crisis.

In October last year, nursing student Rosie Moore and her seven-year-old son Ernie moved into the Peterborough Housing Co-op, a pocket neighbourhood of 14 townhouses (plus one tiny house) on a block of land between Manchester and Madras Streets.

“It’s a new house, a change in lifestyle, and it is a really positive thing for both of us,” says Moore in an interview with Frank Film. “I think more people would live in the city if they could, if it was more affordable. It is more convenient and there are a lot of really great facilities in town.”

For Christchurch Central MP Duncan Webb, it is his first visit to the co-op. He has friends here, he says, “and from all reports it is fantastic, very exciting.”

He is impressed.

The housing co-op dates back to the 1980s, when the Te Whanau Charitable Trust that governed Piko Wholefoods expanded to include a land trust. In 1980 the Trust bought four villas on Peterborough St under the ownership of the new Ōtākaro Land Trust, set up to support community development through co-operative housing. After the earthquakes of 2011, says trustee Stephanie Pole, they got a good payout from their insurance “and a rather large mortgage from our bank.”

They decided to build back bigger, and better, with the well-being of the community in mind.

In 2016 the co-op enlisted Allfrey + South Architects to redesign the inner city co-housing project. Now home to 29 people, it includes fourteen units ranging in size from two studios and a couple of one-bedroom units to one four- bedroom unit (plus one tiny house) all clustered around a central courtyard. Each unit graduates from private to public space, with the kitchen and front garden serving as a threshold between the two.

It was also specifically designed for community interaction.

Children play on the central lawn, adults gather at the picnic table, there are two shared laundries – “Forced interaction spaces,” laughs Moore – and a common house for the weekly shared meal.

“We all live separately but together,” says Moore. “You have privacy in your own space and everyone respects that.”

It also offers an affordable model for the Council’s goal to increase the number of central city residents from 7170 as it is today to 20,000 by 2028.

The current rash of new apartments do not come cheap. As one real estate agent said, inner city living is the new black. Buyers can pay around $950,000 for a three-bedroom apartment or $600,000 for a two-bedroom. A two-bedroom rental can cost as much as $600 a week.

At the housing co-op, Moore pays about half this. The apartments are small, but the high ceilings give a sense of space and are well insulated, and solar panel hot water heating and shared internet keep running costs down.

“The rent is less than market rent so we are able to have people here who perhaps couldn’t otherwise live in the central city,” says Pole. “If the Government wants to put money into housing, then why not this – a private public partnership for everyone’s wellbeing?”

Webb is enthusiastic. “If these things are happening,” he says, “then there is a place for Government to come in.”

For Moore, their new home is both a long term housing solution and a good living environment for children. “Having a close relationship with lots of different adults for your child is a really great opportunity.”

And Ernie? Sitting in the kitchen, he says the best thing about living at the co-op is hanging out with other kids.

“It’s a good life.”


Producer: Gerard Smyth

Director: Gaylene Barnes