With bids for the district council's pensioner housing stock due in today, 83-year-old tenant Pat Graham is nervous about her future.

Six community housing providers have indicated an interest in purchasing the 115 units. A Horowhenua District Council-convened panel will evaluate the bids and make recommendations to the council's May meeting.

"We're not happy about it. We like council as a landlord. They've been brilliant," Mrs Graham said.

"Everything you want within reason they help with. I mean they wouldn't hang chandeliers from the ceiling for you but I don't want chandeliers," she said.


"Why sell us off to another provider who may not treat us so well?"

She has an idea about part of the answer.

When council officers invited Mrs Graham and other tenants in for a morning tea to explain the process, they were told central government no longer provided funding to councils for pensioner housing and HDC was looking to a community provider to carry the financial load.

HDC said the council's pensioner housing service was not sustainable in the medium-to-long term without significant operational and capital expenditure.

The units currently earn around $900,000 in rent annually. L

ate last year, HDC chief executive David Clapperton said costs of running the pensioner housing were more than its rental revenue. A community housing provider could make a better go of it.

District mayor Michael Feyen has been vocal that it is problematic HDC can't balance the books on 115 rental units.

Horowhenua GreyPower vice president Lew Rohloff says it is irresponsible for HDC to look to sell the units this year as the September general election may bring a change in government and social housing policy.


Mrs Graham has heard all the arguments, but uncertainty over the future weighs more heavily on her mind.

While no decision has yet been made to sell the units, Mrs Graham said HDC had basically told tenants the sale's process was going ahead.

"They gave us morning tea and they told us they have opened [the sale] up for anyone in New Zealand. Now we're just sitting here waiting for it to happen."

The great-grandmother of seven said a concern was that rent may rise under a new owner.

"Even though they say our conditions will stay the same, who is to say that when the next person moves in they won't have to sign up to a contract with a higher rent?

Paying $150 a week is cheap by today's standards. But when you only get $769.42 a fortnight from the pension then that's a big hunk.


GreyPower argues that for a community housing provider to make a return from the housing, the provider will need to access income-related rent subsidies.

That means opening up the housing to social housing register applicants, not necessarily the elderly.

HDC's own consultation document indicates the units could become "available to a wider group of people in need, rather than only to older citizens".

Mrs Graham said elderly tenants had similar lifestyle needs. Having other types of tenants nearby would be difficult.

"We look after each other in this street. If my neighbour's curtains stayed drawn I'd go over and see if anything was wrong," she said.

Mrs Graham lives in a quiet, narrow street with just pensioner units. Several units were removed some years back and the vacant lots have been turned into tidy gardens with well-cared-for shrubs, fruit trees and seating.


When the Horowhenua Chronicle visited Mrs Graham, several tenants were enjoying the sun in the garden areas.

HDC said the units are all in good condition. The buildings appear freshly painted. Each has a spacious garden shed.

There is new concrete on the footpath outside Mrs Graham's front door and a new rotary clothesline in her back garden.

Despite reassurance from council that tenancy terms and conditions will not change for existing tenants after a sale, Mrs Graham is uncertain.

"It's so relaxing here, so peaceful. I really hope it doesn't turn into a ghetto."

HDC paints a rosier picture of the future, saying community housing providers could offer tenants much wider wrap-around social services such as meals, outings, social services and health care.


They were also in a better position to provide specialist support required by some elderly tenants, a council statement said.

Mrs Graham, a council tenant for eight years, points to a power switch in her kitchen that she said HDC chief executive David Clapperton personally helped have moved to where she could reach it more easily.

"The council people have been wonderful landlords. Absolutely. "And now we're sitting on a timebomb waiting to find out who will be our new provider," she said.