Elderly people caught by defective and leaky building issues are struggling to fund repairs or replacement of their places, says a Grey Power chief.

Bill Rayner, Auckland zone director and North Shore president, said he was concerned about older people who owned places at Browns Bay's Bay Palms, Eastcliffe retirement village at Orakei and elsewhere.

Bay Palms is undergoing a $14.5 million defective building repair by Canam Construction. At Eastcliffe, 33 townhouses have been demolished after extensive problems were discovered and some residents are now considering buying elsewhere.

Rayner said: "There's increasing concern with people getting caught up in the leaky homes process and of course it affects the elderly more than most."

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Repair or replacement challenges were worse for this group, he said. The cost of repairing or replacing homes was one issue, and that "takes their life savings. They can't afford it".

"The other problem is the sheer difficulty of handling the situation. Some of these situations can take up to two years, even the situation where the building is being repaired and fixed. You have to move out plus all the ancillary costs of storing the furniture. It's just got the point – it's a housing crisis," Rayner said.

Read more: Elderly residents forced to rent as Bay Palms vacated for repairs

"Bay Palms' body corporate decided that as well as fixing up what was there before, they would add on some additional features. Once again they got into a dispute with the people who didn't have the extra money. Plus, the consultancy costs get enormous," Rayner said.

Rayner has been working on the issue with real estate boss Paul Lochore who put a proposal to Heartland Bank retail chief Mel Cadman hoping to assist older people to get funds.

Cadman said the bank was happy to listen to Grey Power's concerns about this important issue of seniors residing in leaky homes. However, the bank was unable to make any formal commitment to finance options of the residents at the Palms complex at this stage.

Roger Levie, concerned about the defective building crisis and its impact on the elderly. Photo/Steven McNicholl
Roger Levie, concerned about the defective building crisis and its impact on the elderly. Photo/Steven McNicholl

Roger Levie, of the Home Owners & Buyers Association, said Bay Palms and Eastcliffe were quite different ownership structures and so different approaches were required.

"Bay Palms is your typical defective building situation where funds need to be raised to pay for the repair of the building. At Eastcliffe, the residents had licences to occupy the properties that have now been demolished – the issue for the Eastcliffe residents is around breach of contract and the fact that the proposed substitute apartments have far less amenity and licence value than what they have come from," Levie said.

The majority of multi-unit apartment blocks and terraced townhouse developments built during the 1990s through to around 2005 are not only leaking but also have many internal defects and areas of noncompliance, Levie said.

Read more: 'I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown': Retiree on battle with Ngāti Whātua over demolished home

Of particular concern are those areas where these buildings are not up to fire safety standards and therefore present a greater risk to occupants if a fire breaks out.

Councils are not yet actively searching out these non-compliant buildings but they are rightfully insisting on the resolution of fire compliance and structural issues when major weathertightness repairs are being undertaken. In most cases this is more than doubling repair costs and therefore having an even greater personal and financial impact on owners, he said.

"For owner-occupiers who live in these properties, and particularly the elderly, this situation is dire. In many cases, owners are being asked to come up with hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund their share of repair work and this is money they don't have and can't raise. Where this occurs, owners are losing their homes and their futures look bleak. This is a crisis and the only way I can see us getting through it is with Government assistance," Levie said.

Any suggestion New Zealand was through the building disaster was a myth, Levie said.

"I doubt we have dealt with anything more than 20 per cent of what is out there. It's ironic that there is such a focus on housing supply and affordability when owners are losing their homes because the system they relied on to protect them has failed so dismally."

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