Fast action needed for social housing

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 05:00 26/09/2012
Airedale std
Joseph Johnson
MOVING OUT: Resident Phillipa Acourt prepares to leave Airedale Courts today.

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The Christchurch City Council needs to take swift action to replace or fix its damaged housing complexes or it will struggle to meet demand for social housing, a city councillor says.

Since the beginning of last month, 36 units at Brougham Village in Waltham and 24 Airedale Courts units in central Christchurch have been closed by the council because of concerns about their structural safety in the event of another big earthquake.

Their closure brings the number of council units out of action because of quake damage to 451. That number could still grow.

A report due to be presented to councillors tomorrow shows detailed engineering evaluations have yet to be completed on the bulk of the council's social housing stock.

Before June, engineers will pore over about 50 council housing complexes considered at high risk because of their construction or age or because they are on technical category 3 land.

Senior council managers have told The Press it was likely more units would be identified as quake-prone as the detailed engineering evaluations are completed.

Cr Yani Johanson, who heads the council committee responsible for overseeing social housing, said restoring capacity in the housing stock had to be a council priority.

"If we can build a rugby stadium in 100 days, surely we can come up with ways to build some fast housing," he said.

Johanson said the council owned vacant land that could be used for temporary or transitional housing and he would ask staff at tomorrow's council meeting to investigate ways of boosting the short-term supply of social housing.

Ten Airedale Court residents began packing their belongings yesterday after hearing their homes were no longer safe to occupy.

Phillipa Acourt has lived in the complex for 10 years and was shocked to learn she would have to leave, but she accepted the council needed to put safety first.

The council moved to shut down a block of 24 units at the Salisbury St complex on Monday after receiving advice from engineers that the building had a seismic capacity of between 15 and 25 per cent of the new building standard and was therefore quake-prone. Only 10 of the 24 units were occupied.

"I know we have to move on, but it was a shock finding out about it," said Acourt, who spent yesterday packing her belongings in anticipation of a move to another council housing complex in Beckenham or Sydenham.

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"I will be sad to leave but I know it has to happen," she said.

Some of the residents displaced from Brougham Village when it partially closed early last month were relocated to Airedale Court but none was living in the units affected by Monday's notice.

- Canterbury

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