Waikato lacks affordable housing - study

NICOLA BRENNAN-TUPARA
Last updated 05:00 12/11/2012

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Waikato has a severe shortage of affordable housing stock, with those in the region's tourism hot spots really struggling, a report shows.

Window on Waikato Poverty: Affordable and Social Housing, released on Friday, shows 39.1 per cent of people spend almost 40 per cent of their income on housing costs - up from about 33 per cent in 2008/09.

That was having a huge impact on poverty in the region, Poverty Action Waikato researcher Rose Black said.

Her research showed residents in popular holiday hot spots such as Raglan and the Coromandel were struggling to find affordable rental properties.

There were reports of people having to live in rental properties that were in "really poor condition" because there was no other option.

The other issue was a high rate of absentee landlords - 54 per cent of ratepayers in the Coromandel being absent and 60 per cent in Raglan.

Many of those landlords used the houses as holiday homes, meaning rental stock was available for only a short period. Others moved frequently because houses in these areas tended to be more affordable when they were on the market.

"The housing asset bubble, combined with greater inequity in available work and income levels, has resulted in the housing need of many local residents being left unmet," Ms Black said.

She said the development of coastal locations by property developers and investors, who had means to make money out of rising house prices, had made housing "unaffordable for less affluent locals".

Many on low incomes, including the elderly and Maori, had been forced out of their homes because they could no longer afford to live there.

"I think for the most vulnerable groups in our society, access to housing in the Waikato is becoming harder and the quality of housing at the low end is appalling," Ms Black said.

"People will move into a small, maybe one or two-bedroom house or flat with maybe two or three children.

"But these houses have no curtains, no floor coverings and often no heating available, and are damp and mouldy - even basics like the stove don't work," she said.

"All of the simple things that would make living a little bit easier are absent."

A housing needs survey Poverty Action Waikato sent out in July to organisations dealing with those in need showed 97 people and 105 families had contacted them asking for help with housing, an increase on earlier months.

And in August, 144 Waikato families were on a waiting list for a Housing NZ house - 110 considered "at risk" or in "serious" need of a house.

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nicola.brennan@waikatotimes.co.nz

- Waikato Times

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