Taking his mentally-ill son’s care into his own hands has led a Nelson man to extol the virtues of second dwellings in meeting the region’s housing demand.
David Barnes and his wife Jennifer share their Stoke property with David’s parents, who live downstairs, as well as their 33-year-old son Samuel.
Despite the extra guests, Barnes said he wouldn’t have it any other way and was in favour of making it easier for others in his situation to build an unsubdivided second dwelling on existing properties.
“Right at the moment housing is a big topic – but there are a lot of solutions and this is one of them,” Barnes said.
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“I think if council could change some of the bylaws and allowed families to build on their property for dependent relatives – it would be fantastic – plus it eases the health services.”
Samuel has suffered from Schizoaffective disorder since his early teens, which has seen him in and out of mental health care in Nelson and Christchurch.
The last three years have seen Samuel placed in supported accommodation as well as a 12-month stay as an inpatient at Christchurch’s Hillmorton hospital.
As a way of giving their son a settled environment close to his family, the Barneses made the decision last year to build a self-contained cottage at the rear of the property.
“We thought, ‘we’ve got to do something for Samuel’, with our parents living here we couldn’t have him in the house, so we thought ‘right we’ll build a cottage on the property for him’.”
Building and resource management consent was obtained, but Barnes had to explain their reasons for building it.
The build, designed and built by Versatile homes, cost a total of $110,000 and took about three months to complete.
”There are a lot of families like us and I think if they had half a chance to do something on their property to look after their relatives, they’d grab it.”
Under the Building Act 2004, buildings additional to a dwelling (such as sleepouts) used in connection with a dwelling, less than 10m2 floor area, no sanitary facilities or potable water storage, not closer than its own height to any residential building or legal boundary, do not require building consent.
Building coverage of the net area of any property in lower density areas like Stoke must not exceed 30 per cent.
Barnes’ section is 607m2, while the house is 270m2 over two floors.
The one-bedroom second dwelling, measuring about 30m2, contains a toilet, kitchen, lounge, ensuite bathroom.
“We did get special dispensation because it’s still too big,” Barnes said.
When Samuel was discharged from Hillmorton hospital in October 2016, he was able to return to a home of his own, albeit in his parent’s backyard.
Councillor Matt Lawrey was supportive of Barnes’ suggestion and had campaigned on the idea of “second suites” in 2016 after being turned on to the idea by Nelson architect Peter Olorenshaw.
Lawrey said there had been a positive impact of second suites in Canadian cities like Calgary, who had previously struggled with the effects of urban sprawl.
“The way we are going to do fix the housing crisis is through accommodation. One of the ways is by building more state houses, but another big way of doing it is by getting smarter with the way we’re using privately owned land,” he said.
“The glory of these second dwellings is that you’re actually giving people the opportunity to build on land that is effectively free – one of the major problems with building in parts of New Zealand where a lot of people want to live, like Nelson, is the cost of the land.
“So you take that out of the equation and actually building a studio or two bedroom dwelling becomes a lot more affordable.”
Nelson City Council manager of communications Paul Shattock said while the idea was not a new one, it was being considered as part of the current Nelson Plan review.
Residents would be able to make a submission to the council when the draft plan was released in October.