Thursday, 30 October 2014

submission to hamilton city council on "older person housing review"

i thought this would be the best place to share the submission i've put in tonight to hamilton city council's review of pensioner housing.  there is strong support in council for selling these houses, which would be terrible.  so this is what i had to say about it all:

Do you support in principle Council's proposal to sell all the Council owned social housing properties to a combination of sympathetic social housing providers and on the open market?


Please includes [sic] reasons why you hold this position.

HCC has a responsibility to the this community to provide housing crucial for the well-being of many vulnerable senior citizens.

The increasing inequality in New Zealand society, along with an aging population, means that the demand for social housing will.  The rise in number of the "working poor" as a result of inadequate wages paid for their work means that people are less able to save.  Soaring house prices means that fewer people are able to afford their own homes.

The problem of adequate housing is a complex one, which requires investment from both central and local government.  It requires a higher level of investment, not the divestment of existing stock.  The sale of such stock will cause unnecessary hardship and suffering.

The private sector does not adequately or efficiently provide housing for our vulnerable.  Too many properties in the private sector are poorly maintained, cold & damp, while speculators seek to make short term capital gains while failing to ensure adequate standards for housing.  Moreover, the system of providing accommodation supplements as an alternative to the provision of social housing means that taxpayers are forced to pay for profiteering by those who can afford to own more than one home.  Had those supplements been reinvested into the maintenance and upgrade of the houses, then it might have been money well spent.  But this has not been the case and I'd refer Councillors to excellent work done by Bryan Bruce ( and Nigel Latta (  in highlighting the health and social issues caused by inadequate housing.

The market does not provide adequately for those who are vulnerable, and government has a duty to ensure that all citizens are looked after.  Access to safe and adequate housing is a human right, and I refer Councillors to Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 11(1) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. New Zealand is a signatory to both.  I'd also recommend Councillors inform themselves by visiting this link:

Do you have any specific comments in relation to the other options considered by Council? (Option 1 (status quo), Option 2 (retain but lease to social housing sector), Option 3 (Partial sale), Option 4a (sell all to social housing sector) or Option 4b (sell all on private market). These option are outlined in more detail in the Options paper.) 

 Option 1: the status quo is not sufficient.  HCC must invest in the social housing stock to ensure adequate standards.  My preference would be that Council actually increase the funds available.

Option 2:  this may be the best option under present government policy, in order to access government funding.  However, should Council consider this option, strict regulations must be put in place to ensure that the housing is retained for older persons, that the standard of the housing stock is kept high.  As the Council will remain owner of the properties, they will be able to include and enforce terms of the lease that provide protection for our senior citizens.

Option 3:  this is not an acceptable option as there is no guarantee that the housing will not be lost from the social housing stock.  As stated by Poverty Action Waikato in their submission: "The 2012 sale of pensioner housing units by HCC has resulted in only 12 of the 53 units sold being available for the elderly to rent at affordable rates."

Option 4a: There are not sufficient resources in the social housing sector to purchase and maintain all of the Council's social housing stock.  A previous sale at Johnson St was only able to go ahead due to an interest-free loan from the D V Bryant Trust.  As stated by Karen Morrison-Hume to Radio New Zealand, even if the social housing sector had the funds to invest in that level of social housing, those funds should be invested in the provision of new housing and not in purchasing the Council's existing stock.  As mentioned in my answer to the previous question, the demand for pensioner housing will be increasing and Council needs to plan for increasing provision in the long term.

Option 4b: This option is unacceptable leave our vulnerable senior citizens in a precarious position.

Do you have any other comments in relation to this proposal?

I support the submissions of Poverty Action Waikato and of the D V Bryant Trust.

I understand that Council feels hampered by Government policy which prevents local government from receiving funding for social housing provision.  However, this hasn't resulted in other Councils around the country selling their pensioner housing.  Council should consult with other local government bodies to ensure they implement solutions that preserve the social housing stock and protect the senior citizens in our city.