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House Plan

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A trust that will help Marlborough people buy their first home through shared ownership has been launched. Four years in the making, the Marlborough Sustainable Housing Trust opened registrations for potential first-home buyers on Friday. .

It will pay about half of the market value of a property for working people on low to moderate incomes, leaving them to pay just half the mortgage and so making it more affordable. Homeowners can buy a larger share from the trust if they want, or buy the property outright in future at market rates. They can also sell the house and use the equity to buy another property, but the trust has the first opportunity to buy it back to retain properties in Blenheim for the scheme.

To buy land and build up to 10 properties in Blenheim, the trust secured a $1.425 million grant from the Canterbury Community Trust. Marlborough Sustainable Housing Trust chairwoman Bev James, a research and policy analyst, said the idea for the housing scheme came after a 2006 survey in the top of the South Island showed a clear need for low-cost housing. Dr James said Marlborough was a low-wage economy, which was not matched by a low-cost housing market. She said this had future implications for people wanting to come to Marlborough and settle or start families. Home ownership was dropping, even among middle-income earners: "Years ago it was a minority, now it's the majority. A group of people got together and said, what can we do?" The result was a not-for-profit charitable trust, made up of Dr James, Martin Ridgway, Kay Saville-Smith, Gary Smith, Helen Magyar and John Craighead.

The trust approached the Canterbury Community Trust and was awarded the grant. Though a first for Marlborough, similar schemes have been successfully used in Queenstown and Auckland. Dr James said the planned houses would be built close to shops and services so owners could easily reach them without spending a lot of money on transport.

The houses, some of which will be on Brewer and Hutchison streets, would be small, warm, eco-friendly with solar water heating, and designed to be suitable for all ages and disabled people. Dr James said designs and specifications for the homes had been given to the trust by Beacon Pathways Ltd.

Buyers would need to have a mortgage approved for their share of the cost of the house through the normal channels and provide a deposit. Dr James said three banks involved in similar schemes in Auckland and Queenstown had also shown interest in being involved in the Blenheim scheme.

At Friday's launch in the Marlborough District Council chambers, Mr Craighead said in the current financial climate he would expect many financial services to be cut. "There's going to be real poverty kicking in. There's going to be a lot of volunteer work needed for us to get through this phase because the social cohesion funding is disappearing rapidly." Mayor Alistair Sowman said the scheme would contribute to the wellbeing of the community and expand its housingstock.

The Marlborough Sustainable Housing Trust

The trust will, in general, provide up to 50 per cent share of the market value of a property and essentially be a silent partner. You are eligible if you are on a low to moderate income (about $45,000 to $85,000) and own no home or other property. You must work and live in Marlborough and be a permanent resident or citizen of New Zealand. The applicant will ideally have a deposit of at least $5000 and have proof they will be able to pay the mortgage.