Desperate need for social housing in Hamilton

By Geoff Lewis

Shortage of rental homes in Hamilton is putting pressure on social housing. Photo / File
Shortage of rental homes in Hamilton is putting pressure on social housing. Photo / File

Hamilton social help organisations are in desperate need of affordable rental accommodation and are calling on the Hamilton City Council to re-invest some of the money from the sale of the city's pensioner villages in social housing.

Ironically, the shortage could be caused by the Government's efforts to cool the over-heated property market.

The Hamilton Christian Night Shelter reported last week that it was nearly full with long-term residents when its primary purpose is to provide short-term emergency accommodation for people who have nowhere else to go.

Shelter manager Peter Humphreys said the 27-bed men's shelter had only a few free berths in the depth of winter and there was a pressing need for a long-term solution to the shortage of accommodation for people who are not able to provide their own.

In December 2015 IHC subsidiary Accessible Properties, won the tender to purchase 344 city council pensioner units in a deal for which it paid $4.7 million up-front.

The remaining $18.8 million is scheduled to be paid by March 2019.

Mr Humphreys, who stood unsuccessfully for a council seat in the 2016 local elections, suggested council should look to using some of the money it gets, when Accessible Properties settles its bill, to re-invest in social housing.

"For guys coming out of prison or detox units there's nowhere to move on to. The social housing has disappeared off the market. We would like there to be somewhere they could move on to."

His suggestion is supported by Alcohol and Drug Community Support Trust director Stephen King. The trust runs a half-way house for people in rehabilitation for their addiction problems.

"There are more and more people with addiction problems. We're suffering, there's 60 to 70 people a year coming out of the DHB's mental health and addictions services. We have nine beds and a huge number who need treatment.

"We just need to get about three houses or a block of units. We know what it needs financially but we're not big enough to do it. We need the support of organisations like a major charitable trust."

Similarly a shortage of rental housing is affecting the ability of the Waikato Women's Refuge to continue to help the victims of family violence.

Refuge CEO Roni Albert said there were so many people trying to find rental accommodation in Hamilton that it was difficult to find houses for women and their children ready to move on from the organisation's safe houses. These accommodate up to 60 women and children a week.

Hamilton City Councillor Dave Macpherson opposed the proposal to sell Hamilton City's pensioner housing when first mooted more than two years ago. Also a member of the Waikato District Health Board, he said the DHB's (mental health and addictions service) Henry Bennett Centre was having the same problem.

"Our director of mental health told me there are a lot of people in the Henry Bennett Centre who should not be there but there is nowhere for them to go."

Cr Macpherson fully supported the idea of an initiative to improve social housing and the possibility of re-investing some of the money from the sale of council's pensioner housing. A change of Government in September could also lead to a change of attitude around the provision of social housing by local authorities.

D V Bryant Trust CEO Lindsay Cumberpatch, who is also a member of the Hamilton Christian Night Shelter Trust board, was well aware of the dearth of social housing in the city.

"I've talked to Peter about the HCNST, the Bryant Trust and others making a submission to the Council when it comes to their annual planning process next year. I had a talk with (deputy Mayor) Martin Gallagher and he seems keen to see Council use some of that pensioner housing money in the social housing space.

"A number of the local and regional funders are keen to do something. We recognise that housing is such an important piece in the jigsaw puzzle."
Lodge Real Estate managing Director Jeremy O'Rourke said Hamilton was in the grip of a rental shortage in all areas.

"We manage a large portion of the rental properties in Hamilton and currently have a vacancy rate of under one per cent. At the moment we have 32 empty properties and a dozen of these are one-bedroom flats." O'Rourke said the shortage in rental properties was due to loan-to-value restriction imposed by the Reserve Bank last year.

"The shortage of affordable rentals and the lack of new stock is an unfortunate, if unintended, consequence of these measures."

- Hamilton News

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