Kurt Bayer

Kurt Bayer is an APNZ reporter based in Christchurch.

Housing NZ's quake repairs 'painfully slow'

Earthquake damaged houses in Locksley Ave, Dallington. Photo / APN
Earthquake damaged houses in Locksley Ave, Dallington. Photo / APN

The rate of repairs to earthquake-damaged Housing New Zealand homes in Christchurch has been slammed for being "painfully slow".

Just 8 per cent of the Crown agency's broken city housing stock has been repaired, with more than 4500 still requiring work.

In its annual report released today, Housing New Zealand boasted of "several significant milestones" in helping the quake-ravaged city get back on its feet.

Chief executive Glen Sowry said 254 repairs of tenanted quake-damaged properties had been completed, with an additional 150 repairs underway.

"We are well on target to complete the repair of all 5000 by the end of 2015," he said.

But given that left 4600 homes still in need of attention, critics said the rate of progress was far too slow.

The housing situation in Christchurch was "absolutely bloody dire", said Tenants Protection Association Christchurch manager Helen Gatonyi.

Slow progress on Housing New Zealand's stock was heaping an extra pressure on the local rental market, where rents spiked by 12 per cent over the last year, according to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) rental affordability index.

"In anybody's book, things might've gone quicker than they have," Ms Gatonyi said.

"There's a sense from tenants we've spoken to that they (Housing New Zealand) could've done more, but there's no avoiding the fact it's just an enormous task."

Insurance wrangling, land issues, and a lack of contractors have all held back progress, she said.

Immediately after the major earthquakes, the corporation did 27,000 health and safety repairs.

Around 600 families were moved to safer accommodation and more than 500 properties were irreparably damaged, of which 215 were in the red zones in Christchurch and Kaiapoi.

And since February of this year, when it received a $320 million insurance pay-out - the equal highest payout in New Zealand history - they've been ploughing ahead with repairs.

But Christchurch East by-election hopeful Poto Williams said: "Clearly it's not happening quickly enough."

She also raised concerns that the homes are being rebuilt to pre-quake levels, which will be "woefully inadequate".

And she added that the Government needs to first accept there is a "housing crisis" in the post-disaster region, and then "invest, support, or underwrite" the developments for a period of time.

"It's all painfully slow and the Government needs to take the lead," Ms Williams said.

Mary Richardson of Christchurch Methodist Mission called for any red-tape hindering the emergence of more social housing to be slashed.

"The situations we hear people living in would make your heart bleed," she said.

"Whenever we have spaces available we could fill it 20 or 30 fold. And we don't advertise widely."

Housing New Zealand, which says it's on track to build 700 new houses built by the end of 2015, defended its repairs record.

"The repair and rebuild programme in Canterbury is a huge undertaking and we are confident we will achieve our targets," said Paul Commons, redevelopment manager.

- APNZ

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