Discontent over higher rents at Age Centre

Simmering discontent over new rental charges for groups using Hamilton's Celebrating Age Centre will be discussed at a council meeting next week.

Council staff will provide an update to the council's community forum subcommittee following comments by some senior groups that the new charges were unaffordable.

The centre on Victoria Street is occupied by five main tenants, but is also popular with casual senior users.

Changes to the centre's rental costs start on January 1 as a result of the council's new community occupancy policy.

Community forum subcommittee chairman Martin Gallagher said several councillors had been contacted by centre users and he was keen to understand the issues and concerns.

"There's a balance that we need to achieve when it comes to creating a fair rental policy. I'm looking forward to getting an update on the issues that have arisen at the Celebrating Age Centre."

Councillor Dave Macpherson said he had talked to the president of the Hamilton Senior Citizens Association, who indicated the group's rental costs were set to increase 500 per cent. It currently pays $791 a year, but is expecting its costs to climb to about $4800.

"This certainly seems more than anything council staff have suggested to us, and would seem to show the consequences of the policy change that . . . I feared might occur," Macpherson said. "He [association's president] made the point strongly that his group are actively considering moving their activities to a more welcoming place and will be trialling one or more of these in the near future."

The Celebrating Age Centre was opened by then-prime minister Robert Muldoon on August 25, 1979.

The building cost more than $500,000 and was financed by contributions from Hamilton Senior Citizens Association, The Waikato Old People's Welfare Council, Hamilton Lions Clubs, the Bryant Trust and the city council.

Hamilton Deputy Mayor Gordon Chesterman met members of SeniorNet several weeks ago to explain the new rental fees and believed the charges were fair.

SeniorNet, who teach older people computing skills, will see their costs increase from $2112 a year to $3102.

Chesterman said not all of the centre's tenants or users objected to the new charges. The rental policy calculates rent at 12.5 per cent of the market rate per square metre.

"I spoke to the Hamilton Residents and Ratepayers' Association and let them know their hourly rate will go down $5. However, they weren't particularly thrilled to hear some groups had been using the centre for free."

Some of the centre's users and tenants had struck trouble because they had not increased their costs to members for many years. "I discovered a card playing group that had been using the centre for a number of years and were paying nothing. I don't consider that fair."

The centre's tenants were getting a 87.5 per cent discount of market rates.


Waikato Times