Clive Jackson and Helen Whittaker in their two-bedroom residential apartment overlooking the city basin. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Clive Jackson and his wife Helen Whittaker have converted their rented commercial premises in central Whangārei into residential accommodation, and others may follow suit as part of a city revitalization plan.
Whangārei District Council is also
allow the zoning of urban land in the city and surrounding suburbs of the Ruakākā Urban Area for the construction of residential apartments which it believes will bring a number of benefits.
In 2021, WDC engaged The Property Group’s urban regeneration team to prepare a business case that examined the opportunities and constraints of residential development in the city centre.
The team’s assessment found that rising construction costs and the prices people could afford to pay for apartments or even townhouses were limiting opportunities for residential development.
But the team found that redeveloping underutilized downtown commercial space was the best way to create residential living opportunities.
Jackson and Whittaker lived in a lifestyle block in Whangārei, and about six years ago began to think about moving somewhere in town, as it was starting to grow.
A commercial building in the city on the corner of Walton St and Robert St was up for sale, and the couple and a friend from Tutukaka decided to buy it and set up a few studio apartments to live in first.
Their upstairs tenants included a hairdresser, an accountant, a real estate agent and a graphic designer.
But when those tenants decided to move elsewhere, the new landlords granted resource consent for four residential apartments – two bedrooms and two bathrooms each.
Each apartment is 100 square meters. Jackson and Whittaker live in one and rent the others for $600 a week.
“Whangārei now has so much to offer in terms of restaurants, bars…The city basin is beautiful. Whangārei is now ready for residential apartments. Shops are starting to fill up and new businesses are coming in,” Jackson said. . .
The new downtown residential apartments, he said, were ideal for working couples.
WDC strategic planner Hamish Sykes said the town center had been identified as a strategic priority or an opportunity to revitalize the town, but affordability prices for residential apartments were a major hurdle.
“It was strongly recommended in order to get more investment into the town center – the council has an important role to play in investing in public amenities as well,” he said, referring to projects such as the renovated bus station and new developments at the Town Basin.
Generally, the permitted size of conversion to residential apartments in the city center ranges from 35m² for those with one habitable room to 45m² or more for those with more than one such room.
The benefits of conversion include increased potential income, as apartments in downtown Whangārei generally attract a higher rent than the average rent for commercial space.
There is a growing demand for residential sales and rentals in the city center coupled with a shift towards working from home.
Another advantage is that such a move creates a modern house with good access to services and amenities provided in the city, without traffic jams and savings on travel time.
The rate reduction and capital gains on the sale of the property by adding a residential unit are other benefits.
According to WDC rules, residential conversion refers to the change of use of an existing building or part of a building from its current or previous use to a residential use.
This often involves converting the interior space upstairs of a commercial building into one or more apartments.
This does not include the construction of a new apartment building or the significant alteration/modification of an existing building.
In downtown Whangārei, residential conversion is permitted on the upper floors of commercial buildings in the downtown area, creating a mixed-use building.
Depending on the size of the space available in the building, more than one apartment, taking into account the internal circulation and the required service space, can be developed.
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