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Tuesday
May242011

Housing for the Elderly

This district has a particular, if not unique problem - it is seen as a desirable place to retire.

This has led to unsatisfied demand for cheap retirement housing for people that may have no association with the district other than their decision to retire here.

Recent arrival, Cr. Hoadley,  has chosen to take up the cudgels on behalf of those who would like to see the Council accept a greater responsibility, and involvement in this particular social service, and even suggested in a recent HH article that Council should be considering buying property for the purpose "as it would never be any cheaper".

Be that as it may, the same Councilor received quite strong support from the Mayor and other councilors during a recent LTCCP hearing for work to commence ASAP on an Positive Aging Strategy, which by its very nature must include a review of TCDC's current policy in regard to the provision of housing for the elderly. Only Cr. Fox spoke strongly in opposition - others appeared to have their eye on electoral advantage. 

There is on tomorrow's Order Paper a request from the Coromandel Independent Living Trust for a $250, 000 subsidy to enable it to complete seven houses for the elderly in that community.

Staff outline in Background as follows:

In 2001, Council made a decision to exit the provision of housing for the elderly services by divesting its units in Thames and Whitianga to the Thames Pensioner Housing trust and Mercury Bay Community Fund. Note that the Coromandel units were not sold at this time as there were problems identified with finding a suitable community organisation to manage the units.

The decision to sell these units followed an earlier decision in 1997 to exit the provision of housing for the elderly services as it was not seen as being a 'core' Council service. Council was also of the view that community trusts with a particular interest in this area would be able to secure external grant funding and provide a more 'complete' service relative to that provided by the Council. The units were sold to the Trusts at a 'discounted' price.

The Coromandel units were subsequently sold to the Coromandel Independent Living Trust in 2007. To fund the purchase of the units and the development of a further seven units, CILT have accessed loan funding of approximately $1.28m. from Housing NZ. Council is acting as guarantor for that loan.

CILT is now requesting an 25 year interest free loan from Council to cover the shortfall of $234,000.

Staff have recommended that Council do not approve the loan advance sought, but agree to act as guarantor for an increased external loan.

I must say that in my experience, guarantees are the very worst instrument to be entering into without an absolute control over the manner in the money is being managed, in this case by a Trust, but no doubt sufficient safeguards can be put in place.

I just do not believe that it is appropriate for our Council to suddenly adopt a new policy, outside of its core business in order to satisfy what no doubt is a 'felt need' within the community. Council has been there before, and thankfully extracted  itself from being involved in what is basically a central government responsibility - i.e. - the provision of social services. No matter which way you cut it, provision of these services will in the end fall back on rate-payers who are already over-stretched.

We will see tomorrow just how the Staff Recommendation is received, and I will report fully on the matter in due course.

The Following Day

The Trust came to Public Forum today and presented a very strong case for special consideration to be given beyond current policy to enable the Trust to take advantage of the $1.28m. from Housing New Zealand for the construction of the seven units on Council land which will be lost on 30 June if Council does not come to the party.

The additional costs of $243,000 arose as a result of unpredictable issues including an objection by a neighbour that went to the Environment Court, but more particularly because of the need to move wastewater and storm-water services from under the land that never appeared on LIM reports.

The Trust is required to find $34,000, and Council have agreed to fund the remainder, the decision as to how to be made at the 29 June meeting.

The decision breeches standing policy on funding for housing for the elderly, but be aware that there is strong sentiment on Council in favour of providing such housing one way or another. The only one holding out at this stage appears to be Cr. Fox, and possibly Cr. Wells. Cr. French "wants a bob both ways", as he said today, but expect a strong move in this direction through the Positive Aging Strategy that will evolve later this year under Cr. Hoadley's putative leadership. 

 

 

 

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