20 February 2024

Housing Crisis Threatens Fiordland Economy

Business Association reveals urgent need for action.

Nathan Benfell, Chair of the Fiordland Business Association, today shared the results of a recent survey conducted with local businesses, addressing the critical housing shortage in Te Anau. The findings underscore the urgent need for strategic solutions to address the housing crisis, which is affecting businesses, employees, and the overall economic growth of the region.

The survey garnered responses from 71 local businesses in November 2023, with the outcome revealing that 56% of participants identified housing as a significant problem impacting their business operations. More than half of the respondents reported being understaffed by between one to five people due to the scarcity of housing options in Te Anau.

Benfell expressed concern, stating, “The results of this survey clearly highlight the severity of the housing shortage in our community. It is impacting businesses, hindering employment opportunities, and ultimately limiting the growth of the region. We now have a responsibility to drive collaboration on strategic and practical initiatives, fast!”

Key insights from the survey include:
– Impact on recruitment and retention: Over 50% of businesses reported difficulties in recruiting and retaining employees due to the housing shortage.

– Concerns about unregulated short-term rentals: Many respondents expressed concerns about the number of local properties used for AirBnB, suggesting that proper regulation by local councils or government legislation could help level the playing field and encourage longer-term rentals.

– Diverse housing needs: Respondents emphasised the need for a variety of accommodation types, addressing the requirements of singles, families, and both seasonal and full-time workers.

– Employer-led solutions: Several suggested solutions were put forward, such as businesses buying and renovating properties to provide employee accommodation, creating dedicated worker housing, and exploring options like tiny homes or trailer parks for workers.

“The survey results indicate a clear desire among employers to invest in worker accommodation, but financial constraints within many family businesses are a significant hurdle. We urge the Government and our Local Authorities to consider providing backing to businesses willing to invest in housing solutions. This not only benefits employers but contributes to the overall economic growth of the region”, Benfell emphasised.

The survey also highlighted the broader impacts of the housing shortage, including limitations on new investment, overworking local staff, limited-service delivery and people moving away.

“It is imperative that we address this housing crisis head on. Locals will tell you; this problem isn’t new, and it also isn’t going away.”

Benfell concluded, “The Fiordland Business Association is committed to working with all stakeholders to find viable solutions to the housing crisis here. We’re looking at what other local authorities like Buller District Council are doing as temporary accommodation. We’ve connected with a developer from Wanaka and a local landowner who are keen to be part of a local solution. And we’re researching modular, prefab and tiny housing options. But we’d still love to get more solution focused individuals and organisations around the table.”

Media Release: Fiordland Business Association – 20 February 2024

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