A national charity that provides supported rental accommodation for the elderly wants to build a house in Katikati for up to 14 residents.

Abbeyfield House is a not-for-profit organisation which specialises in companionable supported rental housing for independent older people.

In May this year the Abbeyfield Katikati steering group was established by 10 local residents who are helping drive the project.

Group chairwoman Ineke Riley said they were concerned about older people leaving Katikati and the surrounding area because they could not find or secure an affordable rental.

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"There is a lack of 1-2 bedroom houses. There was nowhere for them to go."

She said an Abbeyfield house offered studio rooms, each with an ensuite, and communal living areas as well as a cook, an arrangement that would suit older people looking for company and security.

Other jobs and property maintenance was done by residents on a volunteer basis.

Abbeyfield NZ executive officer Susan Jenkins said there were already 13 Abbeyfield houses in New Zealand and Katikati was a target location for a new house.

"The country as a whole has a looming crisis of affordable, suitable housing against a backdrop of age. With this change in demographic, the need has become more urgent.

''It costs about $2.5 to $3 million, depending on the land costs, to build a house for 12-14 people.''

Abbeyfield was making a case for access to cost-neutral capital funding from central government to cover half or more of the costs of construction of an additional 17 houses.

Access to suitable land on peppercorn terms was also key to achieving growth, she said.

Jenkins said National Superannuation has been designed for people who owned their own homes, not renters.

The average all-inclusive rent for residents was about $367 a week which includes all meals, electricity, heating, maintenance, local telephone and gardening.

Residents are eligible for the Living Alone allowance and may qualify for the Accommodation Supplement, she said.

No capital contribution was required from tenants and the rental cost includes an ensuite studio, meals provided by a cook and shared communal areas.

Steering group member David Riley said they knew the usual community fundraising options - sausage sizzles and the like - would not get them to their goal.

He said they were looking at larger scale options such as a partnership between the group and a community-minded company, trust or benefactor.

The arrangement might be for financial funding or to lease the land for a below market value rent.

Western Bay mayor Garry Webber said the council ''is prepared to support this type of supported rental housing''.

The council had pockets of land available at market rates however the group needed to put together a business case and bring it to the council, he said.

"The building and the facility would have to be sustainable."

He said in his eight years in local government he had seen a change in people's housing needs.

"Many are moving away from a four-bedroom home to village-style living and apartments."

The council adopted its Housing Action Plan on October 18, which includes two actions that relate to assisted rentals.

Western Bay Council senior policy analyst Jodie Rickard said the council was currently reviewing what land might be available and what options there were for development.

Council officers had told the Abbeyfield Katikati steering group they had not identified suitable land at this time.

According to SmartGrowth, housing in the Western Bay of Plenty will be a big issue over the next 30 years as another 66,000 people needed housing.


Abbeyfield House
* There are 13 Abbeyfield houses in New Zealand providing accommodation for up to 148 residents.
* Houses are in Hamilton, Auckland, Whangarei, Masterton, Golden Bay, Dunedin, Queenstown, Palmerston North, Christchurch and Leeston.
* Abbeyfield is a registered New Zealand charity and a Community Housing Provider.
* The Katikati Abbey House steering group welcomes more people to become involved and support the project. Contact Pauline on (07) 549 2449.