Applications are open for a Government loan scheme aimed at helping apartment owners in earthquake prone buildings to pay for strengthening costs.
The original $23.3 million scheme was meant to be ready to start issuing loans in the first half of this year, but has been delayed by several months.
Individual loans of up to $250,000 will be issued under the plan.
It's designed for owner-occupiers facing financial hardship by meeting their contribution to strengthening costs, like having to sell their home.
But it has been criticised for being too exclusive by those who are not eligible, but still face bills worth hundreds of thousands of dollars effectively "wiping out" retirement plans and life savings.
Minister for Building and Construction Jenny Salesa said the scheme was about helping those most in need
"We understand how complicated it can be to fix an earthquake-prone building where there are many unit owners. Getting the finance to do this work can be difficult, if not near impossible, for some people in this situation.
"This loan scheme offers support to unit owners so that they are not put in a position where they are forced to sell their home or burdened by the stress of huge financial hardship."
An earthquake-prone building is anything rated at less than 34 per cent of the New Building Standard and many deadlines for strengthening these buildings in Wellington are looming this decade.
The Government considered several options when developing the scheme and this one was thought to be the fairest for taxpayers and offered broad access for support, Salesa said.
To be eligible, applicants must be a unit owner-occupier who can demonstrate they cannot get a loan, or if securing one would cause significant financial hardship or mean selling their home.
"The earthquake-prone building loan scheme aims to balance fairness to all taxpayers by minimising the unnecessary transfer of wealth to building and home owners, Salesa said.
"It is expected remediation work will increase the value of these buildings."
Salesa said the loan was not available to residential property investors.
"Investment in residential property is essentially a commercial undertaking and if the owner is unable to raise the finance to strengthen the building, they have the option to sell their property."
In August, Finance Minister and Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson said no one was more disappointed than him that the scheme was delayed in giving out support.
He said the scheme has been held up by technical issues relating to the way Government agencies can lend to people.
Kāinga Ora was appointed to deliver the scheme and needed an exemption to legislation to be able to lend the money.
A review of the scheme is proposed in 12 months along with an analysis of the uptake of loans and strengthening costs. The review will include eligibility criteria.
As of July there have been 19 expressions of interest in the scheme, but more are expected to come through today.
The Government has estimated up to 20 per cent of owners, or 252 people, in multi-unit multi-storey residential earthquake-prone buildings in high seismic areas could be facing financial hardship.
Meanwhile, in a recent Wellington Central Candidates debate National, Labour and the Greens all came out in support of a review of the earthquake-prone building legislation that has put apartment owners in this position to begin with.