Elderly residents won't be evicted

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 08:07 01/03/2013

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Two elderly Redcliffs residents facing eviction have helped convince councillors to change the trigger for closing council-owned social housing units.

Myra Mills, 79, and Jean James, 75, appeared before the Christchurch City Council yesterday to question why they were being forced to leave their homes when the council-owned units they lived in had only minor quake damage.

The pair have lived for years in the Avonheath housing complex in Redcliffs, which is being partially closed by the council because it has been assessed at below 34 per cent of New Building Standard (NBS).

They told councillors they could not understand why they were being asked to leave.

"At no time have we ever felt unsafe," Mills said. "Why do we have to relocate out of a building that has nothing wrong with it?"

In December 2011 the council undertook to close all council-owned facilities assessed by engineers as being below 34 per cent of the NBS.

Because of that policy dozens of council housing units have been closed and tenants forced to leave their homes.

But planning committee chairwoman Sue Wells and community recreation and culture committee chairman Yani Johanson yesterday managed to convince councillors to change the policy as it applies to social housing.

The change means the council will be able to use engineering advice to make case-by-case assessments on whether units should be closed.

If there is no significant damage and no evidence of brittle collapse mechanism, units could be allowed to remain open even if they have been assessed at between 18 and 34 per cent of NBS.

Occupants of those units will be made aware of the safety and relative strength of the units so they know the potential risks.

Units assessed at 17 per cent or below of NBS will not be occupied.

Council staff say the policy change should allow the council to rescind about 31 eviction notices, including those given to the residents of Avonheath.

Mayor Bob Parker told councillors he had been torn over changing the policy because the last thing he wanted to do was to put people at risk.

However, he did not want to put people through the pain and trauma of having to leave their homes if it was not necessary.

Johanson said the purpose of the change was not to put people in danger; it was to keep people in houses that were safe.

But Cr Helen Broughton did not support making the change because she did not believe the council had enough information in front of it to make a sound decision.

Cr Aaron Keown also voted against the change, saying he was uncomfortable with the level of risk.

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- The Press

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