Public housing

Napier City Council will pose the question of the future of public housing to the community, with three options being considered

Napier City Council has 377 community dwellings, which are rented at affordable rates to the elderly and disabled.  (File photo)

Marty Sharpe / Stuff

Napier City Council has 377 community dwellings, which are rented at affordable rates to the elderly and disabled. (File photo)

The fate of Napier City Council’s social housing is in the hands of its residents, with councilors agreeing on three options for public consultation.

A recent review found that the council cannot continue to provide housing, as it has since the 1960s, funded solely by rents without causing a $2.2 million shortfall each year. This would have to be covered by debts and would probably put pressure on taxpayers.

This has prompted the council to consider selling some, if not all, of its 377 homes which currently support retirees or people with disabilities through subsidized rents.

However, unlike other community housing providers, councils are not eligible for the government’s income-tested rent subsidy.

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THINGS

For many, an affordable home is an unattainable dream, forcing tens of thousands of people onto the waiting list for social housing. (First published October 2020)

Community Strategies Manager Natasha Mackie told councilors at their People and Places Committee meeting on Thursday that the council had applied for access to the central government grant but did not appear to have any intention of do it.

Asked by Mayor Kirsten Wise about the historical use of rental income received from the housing portfolio, Mackie said that since at least 2007 the income had only been used to cover service. Any remainder was placed in the housing reserve, which had been used to fund past deficits and pay for maintenance.

The board would need to borrow to pay for this year’s shortfall.

The three consultation options included the status quo – providing the service through ongoing loan funding. That would likely end up meaning rent increases for tenants or for taxpayers who would pay the long-term deficits.

The remaining revenue from rents collected from the units went into the council's housing reserve fund, which was used to fund the previous year's shortfall and to cover maintenance costs such as roof replacement.  (File photo)

Sunday-Star-Times

The remaining revenue from rents collected from the units went into the council’s housing reserve fund, which was used to fund the previous year’s shortfall and to cover maintenance costs such as roof replacement. (File photo)

The second and third options proposed that the council could sell some or all of its housing stock to a social community housing provider (with clauses ensuring they would continue to be let at an affordable price and protecting existing tenants) , Kāinga Ora or in the open market.

The portfolio, comprising 12 village sites, has a 2020 valuation of approximately $65 million.

Cr Nigel Simpson raised concerns about the inclusion of vacant land surrounding the units, adding that the council had established a ‘reasonable asset’.

Deputy Mayor Annette Brosnan, left, pictured with Mayor Kirsten Wise, asked that the mention of Napier's public housing being sold on the open market be removed as it was unlikely to fit the purpose Council to ensure affordable housing.  (File photo)

PROVIDED/Material

Deputy Mayor Annette Brosnan, left, pictured with Mayor Kirsten Wise, asked that the mention of Napier’s public housing being sold on the open market be removed as it was unlikely to fit the purpose Council to ensure affordable housing. (File photo)

Deputy Mayor Annette Brosnan said selling on the open market was not a feasible option because it did not align with council’s intentions to sustainably secure the future of affordable housing.

She requested that this wording be removed from the options and it was adopted unanimously.

The consultation will open for four weeks from March 16.

When asked if Kāinga Ora was in a position to eventually purchase the units, North Island Eastern Regional Manager Naomi Whitewood said it would be inappropriate to comment before any final decision was made, for the matter was still being actively considered.