Uninsured and under-insured homeowners in flood-damaged Edgecumbe have been thrown a lifeline.
Whakatane district councillors have unanimously approved the Liveable Home project, which will provide the labour, expertise and funding to make homes habitable again.
The Liveable Homes project team will be led by retired Whakatane builder John Pullar, who pulled together a "tradie army" in the weeks after the April 6 flood.
The army of qualified tradespeople will donate their labour and expertise to carry out the work, supported by the Ngati Awa Voluntary Army.
Property owners taking part in the project will have to sign a contract and give detailed information about their circumstances, confirming they don't have the means to repair their homes.
Council chief executive Mary Grenfell said the town risked becoming a community of "the haves and the have-nots" without the project.
"We know that if we don't take action, up to 100 homes may have to be abandoned because the owners will not have the financial means to be able to repair them," he said.
"This project will tackle that issue head-on and avoid a situation where every second or third home in the worst-affected areas is derelict and deteriorating.
"If our communities are truly going to recover from this disaster, they can't be studded with abandoned homes and overgrown sections."
Whakatane mayor Tony Bonne said the project would protect insured people by maintaining neighbourhood property values.
"Think of your street. Would you want 40 per cent of houses left to rot?"
In phase one of the project, the tradie army, with help from the Ngati Awa Voluntary Army, will help strip out and dispose of flood-damaged wall linings and floors, to allow the building structure to dry out.
Phase two - gibbing and stopping plywood floors and sealing wet area floors and walls - was dependant on funding.
Mr Bonne said the council had many promising funding avenues, including charities and trusts. They included the Mayoral Flood Appeal, which has collected more than $67,800 in donations.
The Eastern Bay Energy Trust has agreed to provide underfloor insulation for all flood-damaged homes in the district, ensuring people can return to warmer and healthier homes.
Mr Bonne said the goal was to make all homes habitable, and people would have to pay for upgrades themselves.
"This is a project that provides a hand-up for people who need help to be able to get their lives back on track, so that when we look back on this terrible situation in years to come, we can truly say that we have a community which has recovered and, if anything, is stronger and more resilient in its ability to deal with adversity," Mr Bonne said.
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