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Wellington Heritage Issue a Real Problem

Wellington Heritage Issue a Real Problem


Property Council Wellington urges Wellington City Council to treat seismic strengthening of heritage buildings with practicality and consideration of owners’ financial constraints.

Wellington City Council has nearly completed a major building assessment programme where it examined more than 5,000 pre-1976 properties in the city.

Out of the 684 buildings deemed as earthquake prone, 137 of those are heritage-listed.

Property Council New Zealand’s Wellington Branch has been advocating for regime change around heritage buildings requiring seismic strengthening work for some time now.

Although the branch strongly supports Wellington City Council’s Built Heritage Incentive Fund, it is nowhere near enough to assist with the number of earthquake-prone heritage buildings in Wellington and their crippling seismic strengthening costs.

To cite an example, a current heritage-listed building in Wellington’s CBD valued at $4.95 million will cost $6.1 million to upgrade. The owners of this building cannot afford this as it results in a loan-to-value ratio of 83 per cent which the banks will not finance.

Due to its heritage status, the building cannot be demolished either.

This is a common example for heritage buildings in Wellington. These sorts of entrenched views and rules will inevitably result in abandonment of the building or demolition by neglect.

Wellington City Council has allocated $400,000 to its fund for 2014, which although significant, is not sufficient for the type of hefty upgrade costs facing owners.

Wellington Branch president Andrew Hay says with owners unable to afford strengthening and being prohibited from demolition, the city’s rating base, public safety and amenities will suffer substantially if buildings are abandoned.

“It is simple. We are looking to promote a balanced consideration of heritage, economic and public safety factors. If upgrades are going to be law, people have to be able to afford them – otherwise owners, including owners of heritage buildings, should be allowed to demolish and rebuild.”

END.

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