Christmas fast-track on house crisis

GLENN CONWAY, LOIS CAIRNS AND RACHEL YOUNG
Last updated 07:17 11/12/2013

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The Government has vowed to take action on Christchurch's housing problems before Christmas.

The promise comes after The Press reported Christchurch woman Nellie Hunt's fight to find an affordable home for her family after being evicted from her rental property, and stories of other residents battling poverty.

Yesterday, Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said it was intolerable that anyone in the city should be homeless after Hunt spent a night in a tent at Waltham Park with her three children. Hunt secured a new home yesterday.

Housing Minister Nick Smith last night said he had asked officials to "do the numbers" on creating two more temporary accommodation villages in the city. He expected to make an announcement about a social housing accord with the Christchurch City Council within the next fortnight.

Smith met Hunt when he was in Christchurch yesterday and was pleased she had found accommodation. He had resolved an issue that prevented Hunt from receiving her full housing entitlement payments of an extra $290 weekly. He refused to blame anyone for the oversight.

Smith said lessons that officials would learn from Hunt's story, but the housing waiting list in Christchurch now was not "dissimilar" to that before the earthquake.

Most of the housing issues families faced were related to needing temporary accommodation while their homes were being repaired.

The Government's first four temporary accommodation villages had been "enormously successful" and he wanted to see if there was merit in offering more sites.

"But you can't lose 4000 houses, have another 60,000 damaged and 30,000 workers coming into town for the rebuild without causing major stresses around housing."

Dalziel said the city needed readily available affordable housing.

"What worries me is that Nellie is not alone. She has highlighted a bigger picture and we have to bring all our minds to bear on what are the best ways to resolve these problems."

Dalziel said the council, central government and social housing agencies needed to combine their resources, do a housing stock-take and focus on solutions.

"There are a few lines in the sand that I would like to draw in this term of the council and one is that no-one will be homeless." Dalziel hoped that central government would also become involved.

"Part of the problem is that although temporary solutions can often be found, people don't choose those because they realise they will get stuck and they will lose their priority [for social housing] . . That is a systems failure."

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The council yesterday discussed fast-tracking the redevelopment of "old and cold" council housing complexes. Councillors want reports early in the new year on the possible redevelopment of the council housing complexes in Brougham and Willard streets.

The 89 units in Brougham village are unoccupied because of quake damage. Council staff believe it is possible the site could be redeveloped with up to 136 units. In the Willard St complex, where there are now 26 units, they believe 59 units could be built.

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) would be asked to undertake an audit identifying houses that were suitable for relocation; contained valuable recyclables; were suitable to remain onsite as temporary housing; and those with character and heritage value that should remain onsite for potential future use.

A Cera spokesman said the opportunity already existed to relocate suitable residential red zone houses, and more than 300 had already or would be.

HOUSING NZ STATS

95 per cent of homes damaged in quakes.

739 properties uninhabitable (215 in red zone).

282 homes already repaired and re-tenanted.

400 tenanted homes repaired

700 homes to be built over next two years.

417 people on waiting list as at November.

63 families persuaded to move to other South Island locations over last 12 months. 

COUNCIL HOUSING

More than 430 council units are not occupied due to quake-damage, dropping the council's overall operational stock from 2649 to 2211.

The council has 238 people on its social housing waiting list, seven with "urgent, immediate housing need". Council housing rents range from $94.30 for a bedsit unit to $260 for a four-bedroom home.

 

- © Fairfax NZ News

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