Housing review 'stressful'

TARYN UTIGER
Last updated 05:00 12/05/2014

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A review into New Plymouth's housing for the elderly service is causing stress, Positive Aging Trust says.

The New Plymouth District Council, which owns 145 housing for the elderly units throughout the district has been reviewing the service and the units could soon be sold on the open market.

But the district needs more of the units, not less, Positive Aging Trust member Linda Cox believes.

"There is a larger need coming down the pipeline," she said.

"These are old and vulnerable people whose very home they live in may disappear."

Last week the council moved to consult the public on the future of the units, valued at $11.94 million.

The options put forward include the units being sold on the open market, transferred to a community housing trust, sold to a social service provider, or kept and upgraded.

The cost of providing the service is $1.1m and income generated through rents is $912,000, which leaves ratepayers funding about $100,000 of the service in the 2014-15 year.

However, Positive Aging Trust said there was already a waiting list for the housing for the elderly scheme and they believed council should be looking at ways to increase the service, not sell it out from underneath the tennants.

"A society measures itself on how it treats its most vulnerable and I would hate to see the council be so fixated on fiscal responsibility that it forgot about its social responsibility," Cox said.

Housing for the elderly tenants were sent a letter about the review 15 months ago, Cox said, and yet the issue was still waiting for public consultation to begin in July.

"These people living in these homes are in their twilight years and to give them extended uncertainty about their home, the very place they feel safe, is unfair," she said.

"It gives them a lot of stress in their lives at a point where they should be settled."

Grey Power New Plymouth echoed the concerns of the Positive Aging Trust.

Agnus Lehrke, a representative from Grey Power said it was vitally important that New Plymouth retained the service.

"We have grave concerns about the housing being sold to the private sector," she said.

"This must be a very scary time for the tennants."

Lehrke said the tenants deserved to know what was happening with the service as soon as possible.

"We do think transferring the properties to a trust is the best option," she said.

Grey Power would be making a submission about the future of the housing for the elderly service when public consultation begun in July.

The council's involvement in social housing began in the 1950, and it owns 42 bedsits, 89 one-bedroom units and 14 double units.

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This includes 18 units in Waitara, 25 in Inglewood, nine in Bell Block and the remainder in New Plymouth.

To be eligible for housing for the elderly the tenant must be over 65, on a low income, and possess assets of under $40,000.

- Taranaki Daily News

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