Invercargill City Council to lead 'Community Housing Strategy'

Invercargill city councillor Neil Boniface will represent a Community Housing Strategy and convene future meetings of ...
ROBYN EDIE/FAIRFAX NZ

Invercargill city councillor Neil Boniface will represent a Community Housing Strategy and convene future meetings of the Community Housing Group, with Cr Lindsay Abbott and Cr Rebecca Amundsen.

The Invercargill City Council has agreed to take a hard line on social housing, to facilitate a strategy which could improve the city's housing stock. 

A Social Housing Forum on July 21 of more than 40 discussed the city's social housing shortfalls and called for the council to take a leadership role. 

Cr Neil Boniface said while social housing were a central government issue, it was also "a community issue" and the council was concerned.  

"We can't rely on the government to solve all our issues. We've got to do our best to help the community." 

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Under the strategy, the council could work with The Salvation Army and the Breathing Space Southland trust towards funding, Boniface said. 

The council already owned 215 units for the elderly. Boniface said housing was at 99 per cent occupancy rate, with a waiting list. 

Building more council flats for the elderly could be an outcome from the strategy, he said. 

Cr Rebecca Amundsen said Invercargill's housing issues were not a "one size fits all" and the government could not take it all. 

Amundsen said the council could build on social housing it already owned. 

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However, it was not the council's responsibility to take charge of social housing, as the it was a massive task and council were not funded for it, Amundsen said.

"If the government were to fund that, it would be a different story. But with ratepayers' money, it's not suitable."

In July, Cr Peter Kett proposed a low-cost "state-of-the-art" retirement complex, on council-owned land on Elles Rd.

Amundsen said Kett's concept was more suited to people who were in a good place financially. 

"Social housing, for me, is for people who are struggling for different reasons whether that be mental health, or they don't have a lot of assets."

Labour candidate for Invercargill Liz Craig said it was positive the council would take a broader view of Invercargill's housing.

The Invercargill forum found housing was at capacity and people were "falling through the gaps", Craig said.

"We need to look at who in Invercargill can meet those gaps."

Social housing quality had declined, Craig said.

"What we've ended up with is a rundown state housing stock and people really struggling to get houses that they need."

Invercargill MP Sarah Dowie said she welcomed the move to develop a strategy and she supported the council's work.

The recommendation adopted by the council "to take a leadership role" related to the facilitation of community housing group meetings, not as a leadership role in state housing, she said.

"On average, Housing NZ houses are over 40 years old. The government is investing to both upgrade and build new homes that support the health and wellbeing of tenants."

A Housing NZ spokesperson said it aimed to maintain all of its properties to a good standard, including the 370 in Invercargill.

It regularly checked to see what maintenance and repairs were needed.

This year, it  budgeted more than $500 million on maintaining properties, the biggest annual investment to date, the spokesperson said. 

Last year, Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt suggested the council buy Invercargill's state homes.

Ministry of Social Development deputy chief executive social housing Carl Crafar said the government was not proceeding with a transfer of Invercargill's social housing.

They did not rule out initiating another transaction process in future.

"If the council is interested in purchasing the houses they should consider responding to The Treasury's request for information to advise the Government that they are interested in social housing in Invercargill."

James Eaton

Aurora Place resident James Eaton has been in his Invercargill city council-owned unit since 1991. 

He heated the entire studio unit with one heater, and said although sometimes it was a little bit cold, it was enough for him. 

Eaton said he had been told the Aurora Place complex were the oldest council-owned flats in Invercargill. 

"When you've got older houses the workmanship wasn't as good, I don't think personally." 

The council owns 215 housing units, of which 180 were one-bedroom units. 

The council raised the rent for the unit $2 in July, Eaton said. Fortnightly rent was $190. 

Eaton said it was a positive thing that the council would take leadership on a Community Housing Strategy. 

Politicians focused on bigger cities, Eaton said. On the news, often all he heard about was Auckland housing or roading problems. 

"[The council] know more about what the people [in Invercargill] need, rather than people in Wellington." 

The council "looked after their own", Eaton said.

"You're supposed to look after your own people ... there's too many people in Auckland anyway." 

Eaton said he was happy in the studio flat. 

When he moved in to the flat after retirement he was supported by Cr Lindsay Thomas, he said. 

The council worked on insulation in the roof and the floor within the last five years and gave the unit double-glazing approximately three years ago. 

The unit was dry and heated with one electronic heater, which Eaton provided himself. 

"This place suits me just fine." 

 

 - Stuff

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