Pensioner loses third council flat in a row

By Nikki Preston


A Hamilton pensioner faces having to move again as the council plans to sell his flat from under him for the third time.

Hamilton Labour list MP Sue Moroney says the council's plan to sell three pensioner housing units could contribute to a social housing shortage and increase the number of homeless in the city.

Cedric Motu, 60, moved into council housing in Albert St in Hamilton East in 2000 because of sickness.

When the properties were sold 18 months later he moved to a bedsit in Walker Tce in Dinsdale and when that was sold three years ago he arrived at his Johnson St bedsit.

But he could be on the move again as the council wants to sell the Johnson St flats, and River Rd and Ascot St pensioner flats from July to the highest bidder because they are "not fit for purpose".

But Mr Motu said that while his home, which was a studio with separate kitchen and bathroom, was small, he still found room for his 10 guitars, piles of magazines and DVDs and his four "grandchildren" to stay.

His weekly rent of $58 would also increase to $78 from November under the council's draft long-term plan.

"We would be happy to stay here if they were going to put the rent up ... We like it here, I love it here and so does everyone else - you really adapt to the place."

Some of Mr Motu's elderly neighbours, frightened of being left out on the street, had moved out but he was confident the council would find him somewhere else as it had the previous two times.

The city council has also proposed selling its remaining 21 pensioner housing blocks to a "compassionate buyer" within the next 10 years because it does not believe providing such housing is a core council role.

But Mrs Moroney said the council's plans to sell pensioner housing, with Housing New Zealand's plans to sell state housing could lead to a serious housing shortage for the underprivileged.

Housing New Zealand sold 23 properties in Hamilton between July last year and last month, and 13 the previous year.

She said the council accepted pensioner housing was the council's responsibility and its plans to sell to a "sympathetic buyer" would backfire.

"History shows us that these properties will end up in private, profit-making hands and our elderly citizens will pay the price."

Housing New Zealand general manager Sean Bignell said there were no plans to downscale state houses in Hamilton or Waikato.

Properties were sold because they were old and too expensive to maintain, did not meet customer needs, were highly valued or not performing financially.

"When we sell houses that don't fit with our needs any more, we will use that money to improve and acquire houses elsewhere."

Tenants Action Group, set up last year to represent tenants in council pensioner flats, was most concerned about the proposed sale of three blocks this year and next.

Spokeswoman Audrey Durose questioned what would happen to the people on the waiting list while the council rehoused its existing tenants in other properties.

DOWNSIZING

* Three housing blocks to be sold in 2012/13.

* 21 housing blocks to be sold to a compassionate buyer between 2012/13 and 2022/23.

- Hamilton News

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