Affordable housing in Central Otago came under the microscope at a meeting of the district council last week.

The region is in dire straits in terms of affordable housing stock, but councillors questioned the council’s role in addressing the issue or whether there was ratepayer buy-in for any action.

This prompted a lengthy discussion at the virtual meeting of the council as it came closer to settling on a policy direction for affordable housing.

That followed a public forum address by Central Otago Community Housing Trust chairman Glen Christiansen that Mayor Tim Cadogan described as “impassioned”.

In it, Mr Christiansen referred to the report before the council and issued a challenge to councillors.

“We, as a trust, are asking you, as councillors, to be courageous in your decision-making and think about the future of Central Otago.”

The secure homes model was the only workable one for Central Otago and the trust preferred option 3, he said.

This was for a policy to be developed stating council-led developments should consider provision for affordable housing via a secure homes model.

Cr Neil Gillespie said option 3 would lead to a significant cost to ratepayers.

Mr Christiansen said he believed ratepayers would support that.

“We’re in dire straits .. There is no nicer way to put the housing crisis for Central Otago,” he said.

Later in the meeting, Cr Tracy Paterson questioned whether affordable funding was a core business for the council given other issues it faced.

Cr Neil Gillespie said the council had to gauge from ratepayers if there was an appetite to invest “their funds” in housing.

Council chief adviser Saskia Righarts, who wrote the report, said the council did not have a sense of community support for that sort of investment.

Mr Cadogan said the issue was major for Central Otago but the question had never been asked.

$12million, $15million, or whatever, of Central Otago District Council money or potential earnings to do something about that problem?”

Cr Nigel McKinlay said that the secure homes model would result in setting up the council as a landlord.

Cr Shirley Calvert said council money had gone into setting up the trust but it had been hamstrung by lack of funds.

Cr Cheryl Laws said she had concerns about one ratepayer subsidising another to get into the housing market.

Cr Stu Duncan said he believed affordable housing was more of a central rather than a local government issue.

Cr Martin McPherson said the problem was bigger than local government could deal with.

Councillors agreed to direct staff to produce a policy document for referral to the council.