City council receives 78 housing complaints

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 05:10 11/06/2014

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Concerns about substandard accommodation have prompted almost 80 complaints to the Christchurch City Council in the past 12 months.

The complaints range from problems with squatters and hoarding to concerns about building rot, mould and sewerage.

Of the complaints, 17 per cent related to poor living conditions while 31 per cent were concerns about structural safety. Sewerage problems accounted for another 26 per cent.

Council inspections and enforcement unit manager Anne Columbus said all the complaints received had been investigated and action taken where necessary under either the Building Act or the Health Act.

"A lot of them can be dealt with really easily and simply by giving people the right advice about who they need to talk to and what they need to do," Columbus said.

Legal action was taken only as a last resort and to her recollection none of the 78 complaints received by the council in the past 12 months had resulted in a prosecution.

Columbus said the volume of complaints coming into the council about poor-quality housing had increased only slightly since the quakes.

In 2009 the council had received 76 complaints relating to housing problems.

The council's housing committee has been pushing for the council to set up a rental register so that it can monitor the quality and quantity of rental properties available in Christchurch.

But in a report prepared for yesterday's committee meeting, Columbus questioned whether the council needed to have such a register when there were already other agencies collecting most of the information sought.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (Mbie) collects information relating to residential properties through their bond lodgement form, while the Canterbury Earthquake Temporary Accommodation Service (Cetas) also keeps a rental register through their List a Property service.

"The council would likely be duplicating existing rental register providers, including Cetas, if it established its own register," Columbus cautioned in her report.

Housing committee chairman Cr Glenn Livingstone said he was still keen to pursue the idea of a council-run register.

In the post-quake environment where housing was at a premium and some landlords were willing to exploit people's desperate need for accommodation, he felt it was important to keep track of what accommodation was available and what condition it was in.

Cr Ali Jones said she was concerned the housing stock in Christchurch was being degraded because people were receiving cash settlements for earthquake damage but not putting the money into repairing their properties. As a result many substandard homes were being offered on the rental market.

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The housing committee voted to get staff to investigate the development of a bylaw but that decision still needs to be approved by the full council.

- The Press

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