Council calls for housing plans

By Doug Laing

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The Napier City Council has joined calls for details on Housing New Zealand's plans for properties being emptied by the state rental housing agency in Maraenui.

This was confirmed in a verbal staff report to the council at its regulatory committee meeting on Wednesday.

The previous evening, action group Tu Tangata Maraenui staged its latest meeting of residents concerned with the possible dismantling of their community as state housing units were removed from property around the suburb's shopping centre.

Two long-vacant buildings containing two rental dwellings have been removed in the last fortnight from the Bledisloe Rd corners of Darwin Cr, across the road from the Maraenui shopping centre where the residents meeting was held.

Housing NZ has said three more, together containing another 11 dwellings, will go in the near future, while about 50 more of its dwellings are empty, with the agency claiming they are unoccupied because nobody "wants to live there."

The Council has already told Housing NZ of its worries the untenanted properties - easily identifiable throughout the suburb - will attract crime and other anti-social activity if they remain empty. According to the staff report, the Council asked the agency to remove its unwanted houses "as soon as possible."

Mayor Barbara Arnott told Hawke's Bay Today: "Council is quite relaxed that they're taking some of them down, but what are they going to be replaced with, and when."

"What we've said is we don't want a whole lot of houses that are condemned for years," she said. "Clearly there is a need for more public housing, so we want them to give us a plan of how much stock they want replaced."

"The Housing Corp has got a policy, but clearly that only goes so far," she said.

This comes after a Housing NZ spokesman said earlier in the week: "Because no redevelopment plans have been finalised, it would be premature to speculate on the numbers of housing type..."

The agency previously confirmed that there would be a mixture of housing provided by the corporation, "social housing providers" and private developers.

Former bank worker Paul Bailey, who told the residents of the results of a survey group members recently undertook in the area, and who lives "over the border" in southern Marewa, says it's another "assets sale" by the current Government. He believes it's contributing to significant overcrowding of other homes, and unsafe and unhealthy conditions for numerous children.

He said six questions were asked of 114 households, which is about 10 per cent of the dwellings in Maraenui, according to the most recent census statistics.

Of them, 57 per cent had five or more residents, 17.5 per cent had two or more families, a similar number averaged two or more people per bedroom, 3.5 per cent having more three per room, which he said signified "chronic overcrowding."

He said 79 children in the survey (30 per cent of all children covered) were living in overcrowded situations, but he said that was likely to be "understated" because some respondents were uncomfortable about some information. Mrs Arnott was concerned with Housing NZ contention's that houses in Maraenui are remaining empty because people "don't want to live there," when the issue was whether people wanted to live in the particular houses, as opposed to the area.

At the residents meeting, tenant Delwyn "Fi" Whakamoe, told of her 30 year tie to Maraenui, how she "always keeps coming back," and would not be made to leave.

"I'm proud to be a tenant in Maraenui, I look after my house," she said, urging the people to speak-up and march to Parliament on November 7.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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