This week I sat down with some wonderful people who work for the Christchurch City Council. They are working on the challenge of just how do we get 20,000 people living in the centre of Christchurch. That’s something I tried my best with when I was Mayor. Then we were aiming to get 30,000 people there. We failed miserably.
Now we have an opportunity. Just walk around the centre of our City and look at all of the empty land. It’s time the Government ripped up the contract signed with Fletchers and say “thanks, Fletchers, sell what you have built (they are all expensive), and we will rethink what we can do with the rest of the land”. In the Press yesterday there was this article:
Who’s going to tell Fletchers that they are building the wrong houses for the wrong price? I was staggered when I met some of the bosses of Fletchers some years ago, and one of their “property” people asked me what sort of units they should be building. It was flattering to be asked, and at least they were checking, but I was involved in shifting houses from the Red Zone for low income families at the time and didn’t have a clue about the demand for units in the Central City. I thought Fletchers had been chosen because of the company’s expertise on the topic. Their subsequent actions show that maybe I did know more than them.
It is time for us to really have strong opinions on what exactly Otakaro Ltd hold on behalf of the Crown (that’s us) and how we must have a say over how it is managed from here. Or even that it is not sold and we have a community conversation about future solutions.
As an appetizer I was sent this interesting article from Harvard about an American urban developer Ed Logue https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2019/10/examining-the-life-and-career-of-ed-logue-who-helped-reinvent-postwar-american-cities/?utm_source=SilverpopMailing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Daily%20Gazette%2020191017%20(1).
What I really liked was this article highlights the success and the failures. The message is if you don’t try hard enough you won’t fail, and you won’t learn. But one really important message from the article was this:
Logue always insisted that the public sector had to shoulder the major part of the responsibility, that it was not realistic or appropriate to leave big social problems to the private sector to solve. Today, we live in an urban-policy world where the private sector is expected to provide most of the solutions to the affordable housing crisis as well as to other large problems, such as cities’ crumbling infrastructure. We should look at the mess most of our cities are in and recognize that this is not the answer. We have malfunctioning transit systems in major cities like New York and Boston. We have terrible scarcities in affordable housing where nowhere in the United States can someone who works for minimum wage afford a two-bedroom apartment. There’s something wrong here. By turning these responsibilities over to the private sector, we have let private interests dictate too much.
I don’t argue that the private sector doesn’t have a role. It’s just that its role is alongside others interested in development. The public sector could not have built the Central City Market, but it sure can impact on how we use the land owned by the state in the centre of our city, and that this space isn’t just for those who can afford to pay a fortune to live there.
My argument is that Otakaro Ltd isn’t the private sector. It’s the public sector. Even though they deny it, and pay private sector salaries. We must demand more accountability from this outfit.
Next year we will focus on this often, and in depth.