Council plans pensioner housing shake-up
Hamilton's pensioner housing stock could be in for another shake-up - with up to two housing complexes potentially up for sale.
Councillors have agreed to evaluate options for the delivery of pensioner housing in the city, with one option being the sale of one or two council properties to a "sympathetic provider" of social housing.
The council owns 19 complexes.
Councillors have also agreed to set up a social housing working group to develop a proposal on the council's longer term role in social housing.
Last month the council met 12 housing providers, including Housing NZ, The Crosslight Trust and the Maori Housing Foundation to discuss the issue.
In 2012 the council reaped $3.7 million from the controversial sale of three pensioner housing blocks - in River Rd, Ascot Rd and Johnson St - with two sites going to the highest bidder.
The Johnson St units were sold to The Crosslight Trust and Habitat for Humanity for $610,000, which was $165,000 less than the highest offer.
Councillor Martin Gallagher, a member of the council's social housing working group, said he was not prepared to go along with the presumption some complexes would be sold.
"This exercise must not be an excuse for a hawk off of pensioner housing," he said.
"This exercise must be about how do we best grow and manage the social housing stock in Hamilton and how do we cater for an increasingly ageing population.
"I applaud the mayor's initiative in meeting with the sector, however I don't think it should be seen as automatic that we will transfer and give up our pensioner housing stock."
Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker said the social housing sector was in a state of change, driven by central government, which had opened up opportunities for social housing in the city.
"The social housing sector want to have the discussion with the council about what role they have in the council's current housing stock. Business as usual is no longer sufficient. There is a better option for Hamilton."
Age Concern Hamilton chief executive Gail Gilbert said the previous sale of council pensioner housing blocks caused anxiety among some older residents.
If the council did opt to sell one or two complexes it was important it found a buyer sympathetic to the needs of the elderly. "I think there is no harm in looking to the future to see if social housing can be improved because I think that, for the next generation of older people, a little one bedroom unit won't cut the mustard," Gilbert said.
"My concern is if the council decided to sell some complexes, but they couldn't find a sympathetic buyer, would they then sell them off to a developer.
"Those who live in a council complex have a sense of security because the council has a good reputation as opposed to private landlords where they could be at the mercy of change."
Hamilton Residents and Ratepayers Association president Rod Bowman said members were split 50-50 on whether council should own any pensioner housing stock.
Central government was best resourced to provide social housing, he said. "My personal opinion is we should sell all 19 [complexes] simply because the council can't afford it and it's not core business.
"We fork out taxes so why should we dish out more money to council to provide this sort of housing."
Poverty Action Waikato researcher Doctor Rose Black said the need for social housing was greater than anytime in the past 30 years due to the growing inequality in society.
The community had a responsibility to provide social support to members of the community who were not well off.
"If the council pulled out of social housing then I think that would break the social contract that was made when state housing was introduced in New Zealand," Black said.
FLATS RESIDENTS FEARFUL HOMES MAY BE SOLD
At 69, Barry Parker is one of the youngest of a tight knit group.
Together they share life's laughs, stories and "a fair few" well-grown tomatoes.
Parker moved into Hamilton City Council's pensioner housing complex in Clarkin Rd about three years ago and enjoys the sense of community among residents.
"Every week or so we get together for cups of tea and to talk," he said.
"We had a pyjama party the other night which was great. People share vegetables and look after each other. It's like a little village here."
Parker said some residents were concerned at the prospect of the council selling off some of its pensioner housing stock, with different theories on who might want to buy them.
"If they do sell off any sites you can guarantee it will be about the money. Foreign buyers like the Chinese would love to snap these up," he said.
"I pay $115 a week rent for a one bedroom unit which is cheap and the council do an excellent job looking after us. But if we got a new landlord I'm sure rents wouldn't stay the same."
Neighbour June Bowden, 87, had lived at the Clarkin Rd site for 16 years but was convinced the council wouldn't sell the complex.
"There's been rumours and bad news but I choose to turn a deaf ear to it. These units are of a high standard and they are well thought of in town. The council look after us so well and I couldn't ask for more." email@example.com