For 78-year-old Claus Ottesen, the hardest thing about leaving his Pitau Rd home would be saying goodbye to his beloved rescue cat.
The Mount Maunganui man is one of 45 elderly tenants who may be forced to move following Tauranga City Council's proposal to sell two elder housing villages, on Hinau St and Pitau Rd, on the open market.
They will have the option to move to other accommodation across the city if the proposal goes ahead.
Long-term tenants have watched Mount Maunganui transform from a beachside holiday spot to an exclusive million-dollar suburb, complete with high-rise apartments, late-model luxury cars, backyard pools and pricey flat whites.
These soaring land values in recent years have lifted the combined estimated market value for the two properties to between about $18 million to $23m.
Ottesen is unconcerned about the vagaries of the property market. But the thought of going without his 4-year-old rescue cat brings him to tears.
"Unfortunately she has to go. I just feel sorry for her because it is too soon for her," he said.
Although, under the council's tenancy rules, Ottesen can move with the cat, he believes the former stray will not adjust to living in other parts of Tauranga.
"Wherever she else she goes she will be on the road. She doesn't like any people and she has lost an eye because a tomcat around here got a hold of her one day."
Ottesen rescued her as a stray kitten about four years ago, just before she was about to be put down by a local vet.
"She was sitting in a cage, and they wanted to put her down because they had put her mother and the other kittens down. She was the last one to go – so I asked them if I could have her."
Ottesen said he hated moving homes but in this case, elderly residents, including himself, would just have to "go with the flow".
The council said community consultation, which begins on May 7, will suggest two options for both Mount Maunganui villages.
The first option proposed both villages may be separated from the portfolio and the land sold at market value.
Tauranga City Council general manager of strategy and growth, Christine Jones, said Mount Maunganui had been identified as a non-priority location for public housing.
She said these two villages were not suited for redevelopment as public housing due to their location and high land value.
The other option involved both villages being sold to one or more community housing providers, a consortium, or a central government entity.
A final decision will be made in July.
Jones said the money from the sale would be used for "improving housing outcomes across the city".
Tenants were allowed one neutered cat as a pet, she said.
"If tenants choose to move to one of our other villages their cat can move with them."
The council is in formal negotiations with public housing provider Kāinga Ora regarding the potential sale of its nine separate elder housing villages, involving a total of 248 tenants.
Seventy-seven-year-old Will Benson has been living in his Hinau St unit for the past eight years and said he was unsettled by the thought of uprooting his life.
"I have just got myself sorted. Now I have got to uproot and I don't know where in Tauranga I am going to end up. It is pretty stressful."
He regularly makes good use of the services and amenities in the area, and his partner lives just around the corner.
"I go to the physio, the gym, I go to the RSA and do a bit of dancing. And my lady is just around the corner – everything is good here.
"People are so friendly. We have everything here – the beach and the shops. It is good fun."
It would be "bloody good" if he could move to another Mount location because the thought of living in other parts of Tauranga was daunting.
"On the other side of town - it is like a ghost town. Why would I want to live over there?
"Over there seems so dull, over here there is always sunshine."
He had also spent money on his unit over the years.
"I have spent $400 on my garden. I have stuff everywhere – my drapes, I have set up my sky, my TV aerial on the roof. All of that is going to be uplifted."
The council has reassured Benson he would "never be without a home".
"The council have really looked after me but I want to live where I want to live – not where I am told."
But both Benson and Ottesen agree the proposal to sell both elder housing villages makes sense.
"If they need money, they need money. You really can't blame them I suppose," said Benson.
Ottesen: "Beggars can't be choosers – and council need the money."
"You can't do anything about it because council decide what they want to do and they are just going to do it."
Eighty-six-year-old Pitau Rd village resident Billie Sumner said she is "not really worried" about the prospect of moving.
She has been living in her unit for the past 24 years.
"It is a big upheaval – but I am going to Greerton because I have a husband in a rest home on 6th Avenue so it is a hassle getting there now," said Sumner.
"We have residents here that are in their nineties – one lady is 94. She still drives and that, but it will be a big upheaval for her."
Sumner said the size of the surrounding houses on Pitau Rd have changed greatly over the past 24 years, as it all became "million-dollar housing".
"And apartments will come in here eventually I would say."
Another elderly resident at the Pitau Rd village said the news saddened her.
"I love it here. I was sad because of the location. We have got doctors and the beach. Everything is here in this beautiful place."
The woman said she would need to move to accommodation close to a bus route.
"Because I don't have a car, I don't drive. And I can't afford a chauffeur."
Christine Jones, from the council, said a range of support services had been offered to tenants including access to a tenant support officer, a personalised relocation plan and financial assistance which covers moving costs, financial costs and rental assistance.
Jones said that when selling council-owned assets, the council needed to consider the best possible outcomes for ratepayers while being committed to "achieving positive benefits" for the community.
"Selling this land balances these outcomes by offsetting the discounted price that the remainder of the portfolio [seven villages] is expected to be sold at."
She said it was important to note there were still two other elder housing villages in Mount Maunganui – on Girven Rd and Monowai St.
As of December 2020, there were 239 Kāinga Ora-managed homes in Tauranga.
A spokesperson for the housing provider said the Government is committed to increasing public housing in Tauranga and the wider Bay of Plenty.
Under the Public Housing Plan, about 430-450 additional public housing places and 150–460 transitional housing places were expected to be delivered across the Bay of Plenty by 2024.