Housing problems worsening


As Dunedin’s housing market grows ever tighter, particularly for vulnerable families and those seeking rental accommodation, a high-level group is looking for solutions. Brenda Harwood reports.

Social housing is the top priority for the Mayor’s Taskforce on Housing, which will meet again today, group chairman Aaron Hawkins says.

“It is quite clear there is a lot of anxiety around that [social housing] in the community,” he said.

The taskforce, which brings together groups with an interest in housing, including social and government agencies, the council and the real estate industry, is working against a backdrop of growing calls for action, both nationally and locally.

With estimates up to 600 people could experience housing needs in Dunedin this year, social agencies are calling for more emergency and social housing while planning continues on longer-term solutions.

The city is bracing for a dramatic increase in demand for housing in the next 10 years, with hundreds of construction workers set to move here for the Dunedin Hospital rebuild.

The group was formed late last year and meets monthly.

The tight market was a particular issue in terms of being able to move people from emergency housing into more permanent housing.

Other emerging issues included housing affordability, healthy homes – a big issue in Dunedin – and housing security, he said.

“Dunedin has long had a shortage of quality rental accommodation, and there need to be conversations around how you can address that.”

After decades of relatively static population, Dunedin had grown by about 1800 people in the past year, adding to the pressure on accommodation.

The taskforce was drawing on the experience of Community Housing Aotearoa (CHA), the peak body for New Zealand’s community housing sector, in its work.

CHA deputy director Chris Glaudel, of Wellington, said housing was a complicated issue across the country, with Dunedin having its own specific issues, particularly on housing quality.

Various councils were facing the issue of housing availability, supply and affordability, and this would be a topic for today’s meeting, Mr Glaudel said.

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said every community in New Zealand was experiencing serious housing issues, including availability, quality and affordability.

A recent Local Government New Zealand roadshow which called on every New Zealand council revealed housing issues, including in small communities.

This was impacting on the most vulnerable people across New Zealand, who could not afford the rents.

“It is part of a range of housing issues we are confronting, and it’s going to get worse,” Mr Cull said.

The Mayor’s Taskforce on Housing was based on the premise that “before we start planning too much, we need some data and solid facts to build projections on”.

The taskforce will make recommendations to central and local government later this year.