By Tom Kitchin of RNZ
The future of council-owned housing in Napier is in limbo, as the city grapples with one of the worst social housing crises in the country.
The Napier City Council said although it expected demand to keep growing, the houses it owned were not in good shape and might have to be sold.
One resident, who RNZ agreed not to name, said he was happy to be living on the council housing complex in central Napier, with neatly presented gardens and a big green gathering space in the centre.
"Yeah it's good, it's excellent," he said.
In a recent council survey, 97 per cent of tenants said they were happy with their rentals.
That was despite the council admitting it was doing the bare necessities of work, because of dwindling funds in its housing accounts.
Now the council is considering its options for the houses, and the resident is worried it would end up like the Kāinga Ora flats just down the road, with rubbish strewn across the front of the property.
"We've got a recycle thing the council have put in so we've got used to how to recycle this stuff, but down there they've just thrown everything out in the rubbish bags out in the thing, and then they clean it up once a month."
These issues are all going on while Napier faces the problems of having the highest social housing waitlist per capita in the country and concerns about safety.
But the council's own portfolio of 377 homes has significant challenges.
Most of them - 340 - are retirement flats and the rest are for low income households.
The council said its units were ageing, and it was costing more and more to maintain them.
It would make a decision on what to do with its housing stock in the next 12 months, after community consultation.
In its most recent long-term plan, the council said it would borrow money to cover the deficit and keep the properties operational until it decided what to do with them.
Options included transferring the entire portfolio to another entity, like a community housing provider, or selling some.
In a recent submission to the council, the local district health board spoke out strongly against this.
"The Hawke's Bay District Health Board do not support council's consideration of a reduction in council-owned affordable housing stock in response to unsustainable costs, particularly while there is a deficit in affordable housing in Napier City," the submission read.
"We submit that the council should instead consider increasing direct investment in housing provision or other mechanisms to increase affordable housing supply.
"Local councils can and do play an important role in the provision of affordable housing. Other regions that are facing significant affordable housing shortages, such as Queenstown Lakes, have recognised that councils can play a more active role that goes beyond land planning and the provision of infrastructure."
Maxine Boag, the Napier City councillor with the housing portfolio, said the new healthy homes standards had piled up costs.
"It's left us in a situation where, because we don't charge full market rent, it's subsidised rent, our clients, our tenants spend no more than 30 per cent of their income on their rent, we've got a shortfall in terms of making this sustainable."
She said the council could not solve the problem on its own.
"I think there's a limited amount that we can do, we are very concerned about the housing crisis. We don't have large tracts of land that we can build on or get other people to build on."
But she said the council was talking to Kāinga Ora.
"They're very aware of the pressing need for social housing in and around Napier. We've got far too many people living in motels, which is not a good situation, particularly for families and for children."
Kāinga Ora is currently building 60 homes in the city.
It also acknowledged there were problems with rubbish at its Wellesley Rd flat blocks.
"We are working to resolve this, but it is a complicated issue as we understand it seems to have become an area that other people that are not residents have started leaving rubbish," its regional director for the east North Island Naomi Whitewood said in a statement.
"Some of the initiatives we're undertaking include working closely with our customers to support them to maintain and live well in their homes, as well as increasing security to prevent other non-residents leaving rubbish here.
"We will also continue to work with other agencies to try to solve this issue and make the area better for the community," she said.