Quake risk tenants 'evicted'

MATHEW GROCOTT
Last updated 12:00 07/09/2012
Shea Murphy
FAITH SUTHERLAND/Fairfax NZ
FORCED OUT: Shea Murphy has been given 90 days to move out of her Housing NZ property after it was deemed earthquake-prone and in need of strength.

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Nearly 50 Manawatu people are among the hundreds of Housing New Zealand residents nationwide being forced out of their homes after their properties were found to be earthquake prone.

Housing New Zealand has told residents of 614 earthquake-prone properties to move out within 90 days, including 46 people in 14 affected Manawatu homes.

HNZ manager of tenancy services Jackie Pivac said residents in the wider Manawatu had been spoken to.

"This week we visited tenants living in 14 buildings in [Manawatu and Horowhenua] to inform them the building they live in is going to require strengthening work," she said.

"Generally speaking, the areas on these buildings that need to be strengthened are related to brick chimneys and brick walls and the type of soil the building is sitting on."

Palmerston North MP Iain Lees-Galloway said Housing NZ had mismanaged the situation.

He questioned Housing NZ's methods, saying residents had "effectively been evicted".

"The whole situation has been poorly managed by Housing New Zealand and the upshot is there are families all across New Zealand who have just been evicted through no fault of their own."

Instead of giving the residents notice, Housing NZ should have informed them of the risk and made relocating them a priority, he said.

"You've got to assess the level of risk.

"There is a significant risk in people not having a roof over their heads."

The move would put pressure on an already-stretched state housing supply, he said, and he hoped Housing NZ had a plan in place to improve or replace the buildings quickly so they could be used again by those in need.

Palmerston North mother of three Shea Murphy received her 90-day notice on Tuesday. The solo mum said she was not surprised her house was earthquake-prone, but she was frustrated she had to move out.

"I'm a bit annoyed. I'd like to stay, I know everybody here. It's a nice little street. It's frustrating because I don't know where I'm going to go."

Ms Murphy said her children attended school nearby and she did not want to have to move them into a different school when she moved.

She did not know where she would move to, but said it would need to be another Housing NZ property as she could not afford rents on the commercial market.

The Buxton Pl resident was at the property during a 5.2 magnitude earthquake centred near Dannevirke earlier this year. "You could actually feel the house twist," she said.

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"I was home with my son during another one and you could feel the floor twisting. I ran for the door."

Ms Pivac said Housing NZ would work with tenants to find them state rental properties that met their needs. "Housing NZ will pay reasonable relocation and reconnection costs. For tenant safety reasons, we are unable to do this strengthening work on these properties with the tenants still living in them.

"Our next step is to make final decisions on what work will be done to these buildings.

"This will include looking at the cost of the work required to bring a building up to standard and demand for that type of housing in that location."

Ms Pivac said Housing NZ "always knew" some of its buildings would require strengthening.

"This is not a surprise to us and we have been planning for this type of scenario for some time."

Housing NZ has 769 potentially earthquake-prone buildings - residential properties built before 1976 that are more than two storeys and are home to three or more households.

Of those, 155 have been found to not need strengthening work.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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