Housing crisis solution will 'get people out of cars'

OLIVIA CARVILLE
Last updated 05:00 14/06/2012

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An "immediate" solution to the housing crisis that has crippled some Christchurch families and created a new "working poor" has been delivered to the Government.

Sue Robinson, a businesswoman desperate to solve the city's housing problems, submitted statistics on soaring rental prices to ministers last Friday, along with an immediate affordable-housing solution, but she was not holding her breath on a response.

Her figures show Christchurch tenants had been hit with rent rises of up to $50 a week, forcing some families to "slip below the poverty line".

Before the earthquakes, average rents were increasing by about $5 each year, but the cost had risen significantly across the city in the past 15 months, she said.

The rent for a three-bedroom home in Avonhead had crept up $30 from last year, and the rent for a similar home in the central city had increased by $45 a week.

The figures were pulled together from the Building and Housing Department, Trade Me, property investors and Statistics New Zealand by Robinson, who said a housing solution was needed now because "we have to get people out of their cars".

Tired of hearing long-term bureaucratic plans, Robinson started working fulltime on an "immediate" solution about eight weeks ago.

Her ambitious proposal involved subsidising housing by headleasing properties, overwriting the cost and renting them out at "pre-quake affordable levels".

She founded the Canterbury Affordable Housing Trust to carry out her plan and hoped the Government would provide funds to help.

Working families who were not eligible for Government support had been the hardest hit in the rental drought, she said.

"We are looking at ordinary people who are now on the bones of their backside through no fault of their own. It is the working poor that have been left with financial issues from all this."

The deadline for red-zoned home owners to vacate their properties was looming, some households awaiting insurance repairs had already entered the rental market, an influx of about 24,000 construction workers was imminent, and Robinson said her vision was fuelled by her belief that a disaster was brewing.

"There are massive, massive issues here. People say we are in a housing crisis now, but we are well and truly on the brink of something a lot bigger," she said.

"It's only going to get worse next year."

Robinson, who manages Hotel Homes, moved to Christchurch in January with her husband, Paul Robinson, who is an insurance advocate.

They were "dumbfounded by people's greed" in the housing shortage and said they wanted to help the families who had "fallen through the Government's housing safety nets".

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- The Press

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