Worker accommodation alternative for Christchurch

An Auckland property developer believes shipping container apartments are the answer to supplying worker accommodation for the rebuild.

The modular units are designed to house one person with bed, table, kitchen and bathroom, and can be stacked to form an apartment block up to three storeys high.

Developer David Gaze calls the units ‘‘MiPods’’ and said they were the perfect way to supply affordable temporary housing with the 10-year lifespan specified by the Christchurch City Council, while producing a tidy pay-off for investors.

‘‘A lot of people have been looking at [temporary accommodation], but the economics of doing it haven’t been fantastic.’’

A multi-level conventional housing development would be uneconomical because of high demolition costs, while the cost of land meant a sprawling single storey village would also not be viable, he said.

With his MiPod concept, each unit would be built and fitted out in China for about $27,000 and be rented out for $250 a week, he said.

That meant an occupied unit would return its investment after just more than two years.

Gaze plans to set up a limited liability partnership to build and operate the villages, his company Gaze Commercial will put up $500,000 itself.

The investment would be open to investors worth more than $2 million putting up at least $250,000.

He needed $10 million in private investment, bolstered by a $4m bank loan, for the 200-unit village and expected a return of about 11 per cent each year.

The company would return 7 per cent to investors before the 2.5 per cent management fee was taken, to be fair to investors, he said.

The village would be set up with communal areas, as well as laundry facilities from which the business has budgeted to make roughly $12,000 each year. It will steer clear of liquor licences.

Any higher than three levels and the building would need sprinkler systems, lifts and other requirements, he said.

He had scouted several possible sites around the city, but was yet to secure the 4000-square-metre block needed.

Given the Government has forecast up to 30,000 extra workers will flood the city during the rebuild, housing 200 of them was quite a conservative proposition, he said. ‘‘We’ve had inquiries from construction companies and individuals and the hospitality market.’’

Once the village was dismantled, the units could be sold, rather than leaving waste rubble like regular buildings, he said.

He could have 200 units imported within four months, which was the limit allowed on one site, but the fund would look at setting up more around the city as demand allowed, he said.

It was possible the rebuild could still be cranking in 2022, with a chance of getting the resource consent renewed, although that was unknown, he said.

Two display units have been set up at the corner of Barbadoes St and Oxford Tce which will remain for a couple of months.


  • The Press
  • Michael Berry

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