Council considers social housing options

The Christchurch City Council's proposed entry into the affordable housing market and a potential shake-up of its social housing services have drawn strong public feedback.

The council is the second biggest landlord in the country, with about 2600 social housing units, but it is struggling to find enough money to maintain and upgrade them.

Council finance committee chairman Cr Raf Manji reckons the council should get out of the social housing sector, but deputy Mayor Vicki Buck believes the council should be more involved.

She is pushing for the council to set up a limited liability company to help drive the provision of affordable housing in Christchurch.

She wants the council to transfer the ownership or control of some of its social housing portfolio to the new company, in which it is proposed the council would have a 49 per cent stake. The council would be eligible for registration as a community housing provider, meaning it could access the income-related rent subsidies offered by the Government, bringing it extra revenue.

Buck's proposal has the backing of council staff, who have analysed 20 options for restructuring the social housing portfolio to make it more financially sustainable and have concluded it is the best, but the council has been waiting to hear what the public have to say before deciding which path to go down.

It has received about 255 submissions on the housing issue and will hold hearings later in the month so people can voice their views.

Among those attending the hearings will be Woolston resident Lynette Neill. She feels so strongly the council continue to provide social housing that she went around her neighbourhood collecting signatures in support of her submission, which calls on the council to put rates money into social housing.

"Rates should go up to include the costs of social housing," said Neill, adding that if the council exited the social housing sector, the consequences would be disastrous.

The Hagley-Ferrymead Community Board's spokesman on housing issues, Joe Davies, said his board was of the view the council needed to hold on to its social housing portfolio and it had serious concerns about how the proposed new housing entity would work. It was troubled that it would be operating at arm's length from the council so there would be no opportunity for elected members to have input into its decision-making.

The Press