Social housing left out of city plan
Welfare agencies are stunned that the Christchurch recovery blueprint has bypassed social housing.
More than 300 central-city bedsit units were written off after the February 2011 earthquake, forcing a "concerning number" of the city's most vulnerable residents onto the streets.
The Christchurch Central Development Unit's 100-day blueprint, released on Monday, made no reference to low-income, social housing or bedsits returning to the city, and welfare agencies are united in their concern.
Te Whare Roimata community development worker Jenny Smith estimated that 275 bedsits were lost in the inner-city east quadrant alone.
The low-cost rooms usually housed the city's most vulnerable, such as beneficiaries, those with mental health and addiction problems or former prisoners, and she said many people who had used the services in the past were now sleeping rough. Bedsits, which were mostly privately owned, cost between $110 and $140 a week, power included.
"What is going to be done to restore this low-income housing?" Smith said.
"This needs to be addressed and it is really disappointing it was not discussed in the blueprint.
"If no-one steps in, more of these people are going to end up on the street."
A spokeswoman from Residential Rentals in the eastern inner city said the company had 52 bedsit units before the quake and now only 18 were safe enough to occupy.
The low-cost housing company had been fielding "an extremely high demand" in the past year because "there is nothing available any more".
People were turned away regularly because the units were full most weeks, she said.
Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust manager Ken Clearwater said his clients had "relied hugely" on bedsits and many were now forced to sleep rough.
Methodist Mission executive director Mary Richardson said it was "remarkable no explicit reference has been made to the provision of social housing" in the blueprint.
"We have a great opportunity to create a better and fairer city," she said. "We don't want to look back in 30 years and realise we missed it."
The blueprint says it will "support a greater choice of housing to attract a diverse range of residents", but Richardson feared that without an "explicit commitment" to social and affordable housing, some of the most vulnerable residents would be excluded from the inner city.
City Missioner Michael Gorman said it was understandable that all the attention was focused on "big-ticket items", but he pleaded to the Government: "Don't forget us. Don't forget the homeless."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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