'Enormous difference': Dingy units changed into 'brilliant' homes

The old apartments still to be renovated on the left, while the newly refurbished block is on the right.
The old apartments still to be renovated on the left, while the newly refurbished block is on the right. Photo credit: RNZ / Tim Brown.

By Tim Brown of RNZ

Dunedin's homes have a bad reputation thanks to portrayals such as Scarfies, but the tenants of Kāinga Ora's refurbished Maitland Street apartments have plenty to look forward to when they move in next month.

Built in the 1960s, the 'star block' apartments in Maitland Street are a part of New Zealand's social housing history.

It was a common style of apartment across the country at the time as New Zealand moved towards medium-density housing.

As the Maitland Street's apartments are Kāinga Ora's only star blocks remaining in Dunedin, the decision was made to retain the heart of the building through a process used elsewhere in New Zealand but never before in the South Island - complex remediation.

The first 14 units of the $8 million refurbishment are complete and tenants will soon start moving in.

They will only have to cross the courtyard though as they make the move from their current accommodation to allow those 12 units to also be refurbished.

Peter has called the Maitland Street complex home for 25 years.

He said the change was massive, and he was looking forward to a warmer, drier home.

"There's no comparison - this one's brilliant," he said.

"That building has served us well, but it's past its use-by date and it's time there was something done to it," he said, looking out the window of the new complex towards the dingy beige and teal 1960s-era apartments.

Having lived in his home since the mid 1990s, Peter was understandably anxious when he found out he would have to move in 2018.

But it made sense, he said.

"You have to leave because we can't stay in there. I don't think it would last another 12 months - it's screaming out for something to be done to it," Peter said.

Complete overhaul

Complex remediation meant keeping the bones of the building, but completely overhauling its features.

"In the case of Maitland Street, this means new roofing, insulation, double-glazing, bathroom and kitchen facilities, and a lot more," Lito Magadia, Kāinga Ora's senior programme manager, said.

Work on the second half of the complex would begin in March and take about a year.

Kāinga Ora's deputy chief executive Te Waipounamu Paul Commons said he was pleased to see the complex get a second lease on life.

"We're taking homes built in the '60s and bringing them up to standard," he said.

"This is a really, really good day and we couldn't be happier to offer these homes to the tenants who were here previously. They will see an enormous difference in the quality of the home and what it means for them in terms of health and well-being."

The complex formed part of a tranche of more than 60 units already at various stages of planning and development in Dunedin and Mosgiel.

The Public Housing Plan - released by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern last week - also outlined between 150 and 250 more for the southern region of the South Island.