Residents in Kaipara District Council-owned community houses have slammed the territorial authority over a plan to sell the pensioner flats after allowing them to deteriorate over the years.
The decision to sell comes after property values doubled in a year at Mangawhai Heads, where the pensioner flats are located. The area is one of the fastest growing in Northland.
KDC is calling for expressions of interest from community housing providers to take over ownership of 24 houses on Fagan Pl in Mangawhai Heads that are becoming unaffordable to maintain from rents that are significantly below market rates.
The senior citizens fear they may have to move out if new owners took over or a decision was made to relocate the community houses, built in the 1980s, to another location.
KDC general manager infrastructure, Jim Sephton, said the council has no fixed ideas yet about what the proposals would look like, but the homes were likely to be rebuilt on the existing site or somewhere else in Mangawhai.
Although the Ministry of Social Development offered Income Related Rent Subsidy to top up rents to the market rate, he said councils were ineligible to access it.
"Community housing providers are eligible for the government's rent subsidy, and they can offer tenants a better service because they specialise in community housing.
"As they are now, the houses are spread out and don't make the best use of the space."
At a meeting on November 1, Sephton reassured tenants that they would not have to move until the new houses were built.
He said the present houses were in poor condition and no longer provided an appropriate standard of living for tenants.
But pensioners said KDC has done no maintenance over the years and questioned where ratepayers' money was being utilised.
"It just seems wrong. The council only ever do the minimum," Kevin Twin said.
A few years back, the ceiling in Twin's bathroom collapsed. He said it was a month before the council sent someone to repair it. If small things needed fixing, he said the council would usually provide material but no labour or qualified staff.
"It's really frustrating the way they treat us," he said.
A qualified builder, Twin is able to do maintenance work and helped fix his neighbours' fence, paint their house, and scrub off mould from the walls.
He said when he noticed that the barge boards on his house were rotting, he contacted council to have it fixed, however, they wouldn't do anything and he ended up replacing them at his cost.
"If the council has kept everything up to standard over the years, the units would be worth a lot more.
"The situation is pretty hard on a lot of us," Twin said.
He wouldn't mind if the council shifted all residents to another place but he could also live with his brother in the South Island if need be.
Carol James has mould in the bedroom, on the outside walls of her house and on the curtains and said she couldn't afford to live somewhere else.
Howie and Donna Ashby moved into the council house about eight or nine years ago and put an effort into the property, especially the garden, to create a livelihood for themselves.
Howie said the council initially approached him to help out with a few maintenance jobs and eventually he took on a range of small tasks around the neighbourhood such as mowing lawns, fixing washing lines and painting houses after tenants had moved out.
Ashby still mows the lawns of about four properties to help people who might not be agile enough to do it themselves.
Local resident Pam Atkins said with the pensioner flats located close to the beach, a property developer could end up buying them for summer rentals.
"I know Kaipara needs money but Mangawhai has been a pot of gold with skyrocketing rates. If the council is to make money anywhere, it'll be in Mangawhai."
Commenting on the reaction from pensioners, Sephton reiterated the houses were ageing and that there was never enough rental income to cover all the maintenance that needed to be carried out.
"We acknowledge that the situation is not sustainable, which is why we're taking action to find a better solution for the tenants," he said.
Sephton said during public consultation on its Long Term Plan 2018/28, most people thought council should have little or no role in community housing.
Expressions of interest opened on November 4 and close on December 20.
A decision on the next steps is expected by April 2020.