Housing has emerged as one of the biggest election campaign issues. This week The Star looks at the Dunedin housing situation and canvasses opinion on the local issues.
The urgent need to improve housing quality and increase the availability of social housing in Dunedin are top-of-mind for many leading up to the election.
Nationally, housing has emerged as one of the major election issues, generating heated debate about the plight of first-home buyers priced out of the market, the rising cost of rents, access to social housing and homelessness.
commentators say, especially housing quality and the lack of access to social housing and people being “at the mercy” of the commercial rental market.
Home buyers in the city are under pressure too, real estate listings being down and houses being snapped up quickly.
Dunedin’s social agencies say many of the families they work with are “facing a housing crisis”.
Anglican Family Care director Nicky Taylor said families often experienced “housing insecurity”, having to move every year when leases end, or when their rental home is sold.
“Finding permanent, stable accommodation can be really hard for people,” she said.
“And that means they have to take what they can get, even if a house isn’t really suitable.”
Catholic Social Services director Mike Tonks said the situation could be worse for single men and women, especially as there had not been an increase in the accommodation supplement for beneficiaries for about 12 years.
“In that time, the cost of living has gone up significantly,” he said.
Salvation Army Community Ministries co-ordinator David Williams said housing quality was of “huge concern”.
He spoke of clients who had experienced difficulties with poor-quality homes, both those provided by Housing NZ and private rentals.
“There is often a tension for people between paying less in rent, but struggling to heat a poorly insulated home.”
Presbyterian Support Otago Family Works social work supervisor Deb Gelling said some people in South Dunedin, particularly older people, were living in “really shocking situations”, as their homes had not been properly repaired after the June 2015 floods.
Some were home owners who did not have the money to fix their houses, but others were renting.
“With the rental market the way it is, tenants are reluctant to risk being moved on by asking for problems to be fixed,” Ms Gelling said.
The social agencies agreed a new government-funded transitional housing scheme, run by the Salvation Army in Dunedin, was a positive step.
They also felt some kind of housing quality test – such as a housing warrant of fitness – was urgently needed.
Mrs Taylor warned “this needs to happen without penalty for tenants”.
Many families and individuals are experiencing housing challenges in Dunedin, Presbyterian Support Otago says. In March, PSO surveyed its clients accessing housing support.
22 families homeless, including 8 with children.
3 families evicted, including 1 with children.
3 families lost their home at the end of a tenancy, all with children.
1 family wanting to move, no children.
29 requests from families for support, including 26 with children.