Our housing challenges
In late 2019, as part of a place-based assessment Council and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (MHUD) worked together to understand the housing challenges that Rotorua was facing.
This outlined the housing deficit, as assessed at that time, and other challenges.
In February 2022 following further work to understand and quantify Rotorua’s housing challenges, Council adopted the Housing and Business Capacity Assessment main report and technical report. These were required of Rotorua Lakes Council as a tier 2 council under the Government’s National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD).
Council also approved the inclusion of Housing Bottom Lines in the District Plan, also a requirement of council under the NPS-UD.
History of Rotorua
More than 140 years ago, on 25 November 1880, the Fenton Agreement was signed. The agreement was between the Crown and Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Rangiwewehi and Ngāti Uenukukopako, gifting the lands on which the then Rotorua township was built. Specific land areas were set aside for recreation, hospitals and schools and key streets were named after the important chiefs and leaders of Te Arawa. The area for the township was extensive, stretching from the lakefront to Tihiotonga, and from Utuhina to the Puarenga stream.
In essence, this was the first town plan and Te Arawa continues to have a major interest in the way the city and the district develops.
Story of growth
From 1996 to 2013, the average population growth rate in Rotorua was 0.2% per annum and according to Statistics New Zealand in 2012, the population of Rotorua was actually forecast to decline. However, like most places in Aotearoa, our city experienced a rapid increase in growth over the next decade jumping to 1.8% per annum from 2013 to 2020.
The number of people who call Rotorua home has increased by more than 6500 people since 2013 and in 2020 the district’s population exceeded 77,300. The impact of that growth has led to a local housing crisis.
The impact of growth
With the increase in population, the demand for housing has increased in parallel. This includes both public and private rental homes and homes available for sale. In line with the increase in demand, is the rapid rise in rental and property sale prices. This has essentially locked residents out of either finding a suitable rental home or a home to purchase for their own. As a result, our city has seen an increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness and requiring access to emergency housing services.
The need for new homes to be built to increase supply has risen but unfortunately, until recent years, the building industry was not able to respond to the growing demand for homes. We know that household numbers increased by 580 between 2013 and 2018 however, only 210 homes were built during that period. This is due to a combination of outdated District Plan rules, availability of land, historical underinvestment in infrastructure to support growth and availability of industry resources.
Fortunately, the market has begun to respond to the demand with building and resource consent numbers increasing steadily since 2020, but Council needs to take further action to ensure our city is able to meet the ongoing need for more homes and better housing choices for our community.