Heatley rejects housing claims

OLIVIA CARVILLE
Last updated 05:00 22/06/2012

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Christchurch Earthquake 2011

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Housing Minister Phil Heatley has finally backed Gerry Brownlee's stance that Christchurch is not in a housing crisis.

Heatley has been tight-lipped on the city's housing issues but yesterday said there would be no Government intervention to ease pressure on the rental market because "in the end the ultimate solution is to build more houses".

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Brownlee this week denied the city had been hit with "astronomical rent rises" or that it was in a crisis, and Heatley agreed.

"I wouldn't call it a crisis, but there is no doubt some people are under some housing pressures," Heatley told The Press.

The anecdotal evidence of homelessness and rent rises of up to $100 a week were only "observations", and it was important to "overlay some science to it".

The Government's recent active approach towards the city's housing difficulties was not a response to the perceived crisis but was a progressive step in the city's rebuild, he said.

The Government said this month that more than 100 Housing New Zealand (HNZ) homes would be repaired by mid-July, more than $2 million of Social Housing Unit funding had been earmarked for Canterbury, a third temporary village was nearing completion and a Department of Building and Housing investigation was considering overcrowding and homelessness.

"We have been tracking the housing situation in Canterbury since the quakes and have had some immediate, medium and long-term responses to that," Heatley said.

"The only thing that is going to address the problem is new housing."

Christchurch welfare agencies stand by their belief that the city is in a housing crisis.

Some agencies have reported people living in cars, garages, caravans, overcrowded and damaged homes and sleeping on sand dunes.

Several services noted rent increases of up to $100.

City Missioner Michael Gorman said he had been told of a $500 rent rise last week.

Low-income households and clients were "screaming out" for help, he said.

Te Whare Roimata community development worker Jenny Smith said the city was at "crisis point".

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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