Council's rent hikes sting groups for seniors
Hamilton's older residents are walking away from the city's Celebrating Age Centre saying new rental charges have made the venue unaffordable.
Hamilton City Council has had talks with the centre's five main tenants to explain its new rental charges.
Hamilton SeniorNet said their costs would increase from $2112 a year to $3102, with the prospect of further hikes in subsequent years. SeniorNet teaches older people computing skills.
Hamilton Grey Power president Roger Hennebry said his group's overall costs would go from $1198 a year to just under $1800.
Grey Power's actual rent would decrease to $138 a year but the group will have to share the maintenance costs of the building and utilities with other users.
Changes to the Celebrating Age Centre's rental costs will come into effect on January 1 as a result of the council's new community occupancy policy.
The policy calculates rent at 12.5 per cent of the market rate per square metre.
Hennebry said the new rental charges were fairer but was worried some users would not be able to afford the hikes.
Several card playing groups had walked away from the centre.
"The bone of contention for many groups is they now have to pay to use rooms they were able to use for free," Hennebry said.
"Nobody likes to pay any more, but I think it's a fairer system . . . The council hasn't communicated the changes well. People knew their rent was going up but they weren't told initially by how much and there was a bit of hysteria."
Hennebry said it would be a pity if the rental charges meant the centre was used less in the future.
"I was at a meeting where [deputy mayor] Gordon Chesterman offered to meet with people to talk about the changes and I think it's important people take up his offer."
Councillor Dave Macpherson planned to meet council staff tomorrow to discuss the impact of the policy and said it would be ironic if the rent rises forced the elderly out of the Celebrating Age Centre.
"Perhaps. . .we could consider a name change for the centre - something like ‘The Services to the Elderly Who Can Afford Them Centre'?"
CELEBRATING AGE CENTRE
Originally called the Hamilton Senior Citizens Centre, the building was opened by prime minister Robert Muldoon on August 25, 1979.
The building cost more than $500,000 to build and was financed by contributions from Hamilton Senior Citizens Association, The Waikato Old Peoples Welfare Council, Hamilton Lions Clubs, the Bryant Trust and Hamilton City Council.
Due to dwindling membership and growing maintenance costs, the council eventually took possession of the building.
SOURCE: Hamilton Senior Citizens Association.