Retain housing for baby boomers
3 March 2015
LABOUR’S housing spokesman added his voice to the conversation about council-owned pensioner housing in Whakatane during a visit to the Eastern Bay yesterday.
Phil Twyford met with the region’s Labour party members, Opotiki Mayor John Forbes, social agencies and tenants of council-owned properties.
He was unable to meet with members of Whakatane District Council but stressed the importance of retaining pensioner housing as a wave of baby boomers prepared for retirement.
Recent changes to the local government act prompted some councils to shift away from social housing, he said.
Previously, councils were tasked with considering the social, cultural, economic and environmental wellbeing of residents, but the act redefined infrastructure as their key focus, he said.
Collectively, local bodies were one of New Zealand’s major landlords, providing 5000 properties.
He said councils should be encouraged not only to retain their housing stocks, but to make long-term commitments to grow and improve properties.
The Government was preparing to sell off state houses to community housing providers and provide rent subsidies, he said.
Mr Twyford said the Government wanted to wash its hands of Housing New Zealand properties and sell them to charities – but these groups were unable to afford the homes.
Instead, he supported the improvement of HNZ’s portfolio and supporting charities to build up their capacity.
Councils currently missed out on rent subsidies available to charities and Mr Twyford wanted to see these extended to councils.
On a visit to the Eastern Bay last winter he toured cold and damp private rental properties in Kawerau to promote Labour’s healthy rental policy, which would require rentals to be retrofitted with a heat source and insulation.
He referenced Otago University research that showed for every dollar spent improving heating and insulation in such rentals, $5 would be saved treating sick Kiwi’s through the public health system.
“We are hospitalising kids at third world rates,” Mr Twyford said.
Aside from the final cost placed on the public health system, the private rental market could be a very stressful and transient experience for families unable to qualify for state houses.
He said families were often given 90 days notice and forced to move out of houses. They then found themselves living in garages, or crammed into a relative’s spare room as they searched for another affordable rental.
He said some of New Zealand lowest-decile schools reported a 50 percent roll fluctuation each year as parents shifted families between accommodations.
“This locks children into a cycle of disadvantage.”
He said the research from Otago University also showed low-income families living in HNZ properties were healthier, happier and generally better off than those living in private rentals.
Source: Whakatane Beacon