Happy families wake up warm

HAPPY TENANT: Lorraine Williams with her visiting nephew O’li Gower-Takimoana
HAPPY TENANT: Lorraine Williams with her visiting nephew O’li Gower-Takimoana

When single mother Lorraine Williams wakes up in the morning, she does so in a warm, dry house, without her breath visible in the air, and to her three smiling girls.

But for Ms Williams, who has spent years living on the streets and in substandard housing, this is a recent change.

Ms Williams and her family are one of three families moving in to stage one of the Nelson Tasman Housing Trust's St Lawrence St affordable housing development, officially opened yesterday.

The first stage has six three-bedroom homes and two two-bedroom homes built by Jennian Homes.

Ms Williams, who works at Advance Personnel Services, moved into her unit, one of the six new three-bedroom units built by the trust, with three of her four children last week, and said she was loving the new house.

"I love this, it's beautiful. My kids notice the difference, it's warm."

Ms Williams moved out of home at 14 and spent a few years living on the streets, moving between Nelson and Blenheim.

She then moved to Christchurch for five years, met a former partner, then moved back to Nelson to be with her family when the relationship broke up five years later.

She had spent the last 15 months in her previous house, an old, four-bedroom shack on St Vincent St rented for $380, which involved waking up cold, "then every breath it's like you're smoking inside".

"This is much more warm than the house I was living at."

Every unit comes with a heat pump, and Ms Williams said it had been great to be able to turn it on for an hour and have the house be warm.

Washing dried straight away, and it was a lot healthier.

"I'm noticing my kids smile every day when they wake up every morning."

Nelson MP Nick Smith opened the first stage of the development, saying Nelson's housing costs were putting pressure on lower income families, and the new homes were affordable, good quality and centrally located.

"This initiative will make for eight happier, healthier and more secure families," he said.

Trustee Doug McClearie said the demand for the houses had been incredible, with more than 50 applications and all of the available houses allocated well in advance.

"It confirms the clear understanding that there's a definite need."

A $1 million grant from the Government's Social Housing Fund made up 46 per cent of the scheme cost and the trust raised a mortgage to cover the balance of the costs. The Nelson City Council contributed by waiving the development contributions.

Jennian Homes sales manager Hugh Askin said it had been a big effort from the team to have the project deliver eight homes in eight months, and that had been partially due to the strong relationship between the client and the builder.

The homes are rented to low to mid income families at 80 per cent of market rent.

They are all energy efficient and come with solar hot water systems making them economical to run. This is the trust's third scheme and will increase its portfolio of affordable rental housing to 23 homes. The tenants are referred to the trust from agencies.

Work on the second stage of the development, another two three-bedroom houses and four-bedroom houses, is due to begin next month.

Dr Smith today leaves for Australia, travelling with Housing New Zealand chief executive Glen Sowry to learn how the country grew its community social housing sector in just 20 years.

Currently 20 per cent of social housing stock in Australia is provided by the community, compared to less than 1 per cent in New Zealand.

He will visit a number of developments in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.