Evictions not necessary - union

UNIMPRESSED: Perfectly usable houses are being left vacant by housing NZ according to Kevin Reilly.
UNIMPRESSED: Perfectly usable houses are being left vacant by housing NZ according to Kevin Reilly.

The head of the Manawatu Tenants Union has questioned the need to evict about 70 Palmerston North residents from earthquake-prone state houses, but Housing NZ stands by the decision.

Twenty-one Housing NZ properties in the city have been found to be earthquake-prone, with their tenants given 90 days' notice to leave.

Of the about 70 people affected, all had since found new housing, most in another Housing NZ property, but Kevin Reilly from the Tenants Union said they should not have been forced out in the first place.

Not only had the loss of 21 houses in the city made what he said was a shortage of affordable housing even worse, but the now empty homes were at risk of vandalism and burglaries.

Despite the earthquake risks, Mr Reilly said there were people willing to live in the houses and others who didn't want to leave them to begin with. "We deal with a lot of people who'd be more than happy to live somewhere like that," he said.

Mr Reilly had received under the Official Information Act the evaluation reports for all earthquake prone and earthquake risk Housing NZ homes in Manawatu.

He said it appeared the biggest risk was from liquefaction rather than from structural damage.

Housing NZ general manager Marcus Bosch said risk of liquefaction was not the major issue, but just one of the risks they faced.

In the reports released to Mr Reilly, all of the 21 buildings that were deemed earthquake-prone were found to meet less than 20 per cent of the current building code.

"We are proactively improving tenant safety by engaging structural engineers to look at our buildings across the country to determine whether they are earthquake-prone and the work required to remediate the buildings," Mr Bosch said.

He said HNZ was finalising the assessment process and then it would determine the future of the buildings.

"This decision will consider several factors, including demand and current housing stock available. We are confident that there is currently stock available to meet our waiting list demand in Palmerston North."

Mr Reilly said he was concerned the buildings would be left empty like more than a dozen flats on Rugby St and Raleigh St in Awapuni had been for more than a year.

Since that time the buildings now had graffiti, windows had been broken and boarded up and metal front gates stolen for scrap, he said.

Manawatu Standard