Student housing or family homes?

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Tamahere homeowners are furious over what is being dubbed an illegal student housing complex they say will destroy their quiet, country lifestyle.

The Hart Rd houses - for students or large families? (Photo: Brucer Mercer, Waikato Times)
The Hart Rd houses – for students of large families? (Photo: Brucer Mercer, Waikato Times)

Waikato District Council is investigating the development after a resident raised concerns that eight massive houses being built on Hart Rd were intended to be used as hostel-type housing for Chinese students.

But the Waikato-based Chinese housing developer says such claims are untrue, reports the Waikato Times.

“They are for big families. I have never built for students,” Thomas Wang of construction company LV Park, said.

He owns eight properties in a development area and has applied to build single-storey houses, with eight or nine bedrooms.

Each will have adjoining ensuites, in addition to a media room, office and lounge and central courtyard area.

The homes also appear to have external sliding doors in every bedroom, with the application saying they were for residential use.

However, council customer service general manager Sue Duignan said they were now investigating to make sure they weren’t going to be used for student housing.

“We are taking this information very seriously and there will be further investigation,” she said.

Ms Duignan said the plans raised flags when they were lodged with council but it was not the council’s place to evaluate family living situations.

“We’re not here to judge how families might live … as a country we have more and more immigrants that might wish to live in extended family situations in a different way than what we are used to.”

But Hart Rd resident Pete North, acting as residents’ spokesman said the house designs suggested they were intended as rentals, possibly for students attending nearby Waikato University.

“This is a rural lifestyle block area and we’re concerned that it could turn into a university student street.”

The sites were sold last year, and concerns were first raised when subcontractors working for LV Park said mass dwellings were planned.

However, signs put up by LV Park indicated that each of the houses would have a different design, and number of bedrooms and bathrooms.

When construction on the second home began, it became evident the same rental-style design was being followed.

“We’ve all invested here, it’s meant to be lifestyle blocks, country living. Our quiet little cul de sac is going to turn into a thoroughfare.”

The council has so far approved building consents for two of the dwellings and a further six have been lodged.

The building costs of the houses range from $600,000 to $850,000, according to the applications to the council.

A letter from design agent Wendy Malone to the council in February said the houses were to be used as family homes only.

“I have had detailed discussions with the owner and then builder on the intent of the house and conveyed full implications to them from the council and their insurer, if used otherwise… ,” the letter read.

Mr Wang is adamant the houses are appropriately zoned and the correct procedures have been followed and said buyers were lined up for the homes already.

Ms Duignan said if they were building hostels, or boarding houses, that would fall under commercial consent procedures so the developer would have to apply for land use consent which would undergo public consultation.

If the houses are found to be student accommodation, Ms Duignan said that council would seek legal advice.

Meanwhile, Harcourts general manager Brian King said it was difficult to know what impact the dwellings would have on surrounding property values.

However, he did raise questions around whether there would be a market for eight residential houses with the same design.

“It’s … not in keeping with the rest of the houses in that area.”

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