Anne Gibson

Anne Gibson is the Property editor of the NZ Herald

Health fears for leaky home victims left out of schemes

Apartment owner Scott Whineray is concerned about work outside the scope of the report. Photo / Greg Bowker
Apartment owner Scott Whineray is concerned about work outside the scope of the report. Photo / Greg Bowker

Thousands of leaky home victims are doomed to live in rotting structures causing major health issues, advocates say.

Roger Levie of the Home Owners and Buyers Association said one of the most bitter aspects of the $11 billion-$22 billion disaster was the sheer numbers who faced the prospect of never fixing their places because they were more than a decade old.

Every day, more people were locked out of the system because they no longer qualifed for help from the Weathertight Homes Resolution Service or the $1 billion Financial Assistance Package (FAP), launched last year by the Government.

Both avenues are limited to houses less than 10 years' old and Mr Levie said victims were stuck, resulting in a huge national health bill.

"Many of our less well-off citizens have no choice but to continue living in their damp, mouldy homes because there is no solution for them. This is leading to well-documented health issues, particularly among children and the elderly, driving up Government expenditure in other areas," he warned.

Mr Levie is encouraging people with homes built between late 2002 and 2005, when the building sector started to improve, to get their properties thoroughly checked by a registered building surveyor. About 30,000 houses were built annually last decade.

Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson says the system was working, taxpayer funds must be used wisely and restrictions had to be placed on state assistance schemes to ensure money was used carefully.

He is encouraging people to use the state system which he says is better than civil litigation because of legal fees.

"If no one wants to take the package, that's their choice," he said of the FAP. "I don't believe it's too hard to qualify for. In many cases, people want it to be very open ended. Well, it's taxpayers' money, we've had to put a very robust process in to make sure people don't game this ... At this point on the date curve, the scheme is working because a lot of people are considering it."

Mr Levie said Mr Williamson was "baffling the public with numbers".

That was not solving the housing crisis which would only deepen unless collaborative, common good solutions were found, he said.

Unit won't qualify for council cover

Scott Whineray's Onehunga apartment is one of 55 which will cost a total of about $6 million to fix, of which taxpayers will contribute $1.5 million.

A report from the Weathertight Homes Resolution Service said each unit would cost about $109,000 to fix but Mr Whineray said the total cost would be more. "There will be related work, outside the scope of the report by the service," he said.

Ratepayers are off the hook here - the owners can get no financial help from Auckland Council. But under the Government's $1 billion Financial Assistance Package, they can get a contribution of about $1.5 million or $27,250 a unit.

The Financial Assistance Package (FAP) splits the cost between owners. who pay half, Government a quarter and councils the rest.

But the Onehunga case is one of many in New Zealand which does not qualify fully.

"There will be no 25 per cent from the council as the building work was signed off by an independent council-approved company," says Mr Whineray, who does not expect repairs to begin until about 2016 and wonders if they will even qualify for the FAP.

All owners must prove they have their half of the money to fix the places and he doubts this is feasible in the circumstances.

The numbers
22,000-89,000 rotting homes, PriceWaterhouseCoopers estimates

Weathertight Homes Resolution Service:
6896 claims lodged for 9840 properties
Assessments completed on 12,223 properties
1986 resolved claims, 3312 closed, 1598 active

Financial Assistance Package:
24 full payouts
1589 active claims on 4638 properties

- NZ Herald

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