Senior flatties settle in

SISTERLY BOND: Three of the residents of Sunrise House in Northcote.
SISTERLY BOND: Three of the residents of Sunrise House in Northcote.

They've known each other for fewer than six months, but the residents of Sunrise House already think of themselves as sisters.

Helene, Kay and Edith are the first tenants of a flat for seniors in Northcote.

The Bays Community Housing Trust (BCHT) looks after the five-bedroom house in Tonar St for single women over 65 who do not own their own property and have limited assets.

It was officially opened in February with the first of the women moving in a month later. The residents, who wanted to be known just by their first names, range in age from 65 to 85 and a fifth flatmate is on the way.

They have chosen to name the house Putanga Mai (Sunrise House) to represent a new beginning.

Helene moved in after separating from her husband. She could not afford to stay in their house or find another rental on the pension.

"I looked and looked and looked and got very desperate. What I could afford I wouldn't put my dog in."

Helene saw the flatting project advertised in the North Shore Times and says it was a "message from heaven".

For Edith, the house offered a chance to live independently again.

"It was something I'd been hoping for, wishing for. I didn't want to live alone."

She also saw the project in the North Shore Times and says it leapt out at her.

Kay has been on her own for 10 years and was delighted to find out about the project. She says the residents are all young at heart.

"As you get older you start to dwindle, but not here."

The residents have monthly meetings with BCHT's Robyn Barry to make sure everything is running smoothly.

Barry, a social worker, is studying the project as part of her PhD.

She says it is working very, very well.

"They're amazing women, I love going there. It feels such a privilege to be part of their lives."

BCHT is building a second, similar house next door to Sunrise House which will be offered to single men and women over 65.

Helene says her new home is perfect.

"It answers a lot of things, I want to be independent but not alone. It brings security and friendship. We are like sisters I think."

BCHT provides affordable housing on the North Shore for people in social or economic need, particularly mental health patients. It owns 18 properties and manages 12 which belong to Housing New Zealand.

The second house is due to open on August 31. Rent will be about $220 a week including power, water, phone and internet.

Call Robyn Barry on 020 4008 8754 or email relationshipmanager@ for more information.

North Shore Times