Elderly housing units may be sold

TARYN UTIGER
Last updated 05:00 10/04/2014
ntm-heather
Yvette Batten /Fairfax NZ
Heather Dodunski
Keith Allum
Keith Allum

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New Plymouth's housing-for-the- elderly service could become a thing of the past.

The New Plymouth District Council owns 145 housing for the elderly units throughout the district, but they could soon be sold on the open market.

This week the policy committee debated whether the units, valued at $11.94 million, should be sold on the open market, transferred to a community housing trust, sold to a social service provider, or kept and upgraded.

The units are rented to elderly people at 73 per cent of market value, meaning the council gives up income of $346,000 a year.

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.

Deputy Mayor Heather Dodunski said providing cheap housing was not the core business of the council.

She suggested going to the public with one preferred option, which was to sell the units on the open market.

"It is a very select group of people that are benefiting from this. There are a huge number of elderly people in our community who do not get the same help, so I want to hear the debate and I have wanted that for a number of years," she said.

"For me personally, housing for the elderly, as much as it has become something that is quite accustomed to being in the district, is not our core business."

Councillor Craig McFarlane disagreed with Dodunski's idea of putting one preferred option out for consultation.

"If we go out today with a recommendation, it tells them that we are going to sell them," he said.

"I want to hear what our communities say without telling them we have a predetermined outcome."

Cr Keith Allum, New Plymouth Grey Power's former council watchdog, said he would like to see the units transferred to a community housing trust, who would be able to access funding for the service.

"I agree that housing for the elderly is not council's core business, but if we transfer it to a trust then it would become a core business for them," he said. Under that option all existing tenancies as well as the waiting list of 36 people would be transferred to the trust, and the council would not receive any money for the buildings.

The transfer would mean the council would no longer have to pay operational costs.

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The council has signalled if it were to keep the units they would require significant upgrades of about $1.07m.

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

All six options will be discussed by the full council on May 6, and public submissions will open soon after.

- Taranaki Daily News

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