Call for action over city's social housing

By John Maslin

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Philippa Baker-Hogan
Philippa Baker-Hogan

Whanganui District councillor Philippa Baker-Hogan wants some action on the issue of social housing.

Mrs Baker-Hogan says some urgency is needed to get a report to the council "on the myriad issues" around special housing need, especially in the wake of Wanganui Chronicle reports about the lack of safe and affordable housing for paroled and released prisoners coming from Whanganui Prison.

"We have a fairly rapidly expanding prison, that, while good for employment and provision of some other services and supplies, isn't the type of growth Whanganui and Partners or council will be highlighting in any reputation project," she said.

"On the other hand, we have a Steve Treloar of Whanganui's Prisoners Aid and Rehabilitation Society (PARS) highlighting significant safe and affordable housing issues for paroled and released prisoners and is blasting council, as the Chronicle reported."

Mrs Baker-Hogan said after the last local body elections, she and deputy-mayor Hamish McDouall were appointed to an emergency community housing forum.

She said she had regularly put a lot of time in for more than a year meeting with the group, "before, I understand, Mayor Annette Main was informed that council representation was no longer required".

She said because the council was not getting agendas or minutes from Safer Whanganui meetings other than selected updates, "I have no idea if Safer Whanganui has discussed this issue in any depth".

But Ms Main said an easy way for councillors to access the minutes had been requested "and, as I understand it, Councillor Philippa was added to the mailing list".

Ms Main said reports from Safer Whanganui came to the council "through the usual meeting process".

Mrs Baker-Hogan said following the 10-year plan deliberations last year, a forum was set up to look at the council's pensioner housing stock and the wider social housing issue.

"It was due to present back to council last month with recommendations, and hopefully provide some answers to the issue raised by Mr Treloar about our burgeoning prison population," Mrs Baker-Hogan said.

She requested a paper for today's council meeting, including new data from Corrections, PARS, Housing NZ and council's pensioner housing activity.

Councillor Martin Visser was also on that forum.

However, he said the study was intended to look at the broader context of Whanganui's need for social housing and would be a precursor to any decision on what council decides to do, if anything, with its pensioner housing.

"Given that our population is ageing and also that the Manawatu-Whanganui Regional Growth Study has identified Whanganui as a main player in the quality care and lifestyle for older people sector, it's even more important that we do this work.

"The study needs revision and some supplementary work to cover all aspects of social housing including the issue of housing for ex-prisoners."

He said the working party had to meet again to review all the information before holding a councillors' workshop before it goes on the council agenda.

"That meeting could still be a few months away, but we clearly need to make the right decision."

- Wanganui Chronicle

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