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Wednesday
Oct122016

'Lets' Raises The Bar!

In the thoughtful and timely post that precedes this ‘follow-up,’ ‘Lets’ draws attention to a number of social indicators that should concern the incoming Council, but because of its make-up (almost identical to its predecessor) is unlikely to occupy great deal of its time. It should!

One of the great unspoken issues that arises from this post, relates to a recent (2013) Social & Affordable Housing Report prepared by Wintec postgraduate students, apparently as a research assignment. It points to very real housing shortages in two areas of the District – Mercury Bay and Coromandel, but the analysis could just as well apply to Thames.

It is all very well to draw attention to elaborate statistics that suggest that our housing stock is substantially less that that required to meet needs, let alone the all-important ‘mix,’ but the question of just who is responsible for redressing this imbalance is the ‘elephant-in-room.’

The Report treads gently around the edges of the question, but really provides no answers. Of course, incoming councillors often bring with them wonderfully idealistic concepts of just where the responsibility lies, and word has it that one new councillor at least has definite ideas in that regard that others around the table may find ‘challenging.’

It is suggested this shortage is being exacerbated by the number of single mothers, and elderly retirees with limited or zero resources that are moving into the district – both categories over-represented with Maori who are particularly disadvantaged for any number of reasons that hardly requires analysis here. It is suggested that many would be adequately housed in two, or in some cases three bed-room accommodation, both of which are in distinctly short supply.

Regardless of where the demands is occurring, it is critical that our Council undertakes long-term planning that takes all these factors into account, and vigorously seeks to channel Government resources to meet the need. It is simply beyond already stretched ratepayers to contribute to the cost, regardless of Government attempts to suggest otherwise.

It is nevertheless not inappropriate for Council land to be made available for the purpose where it is available. Unfortunately, such is not the case in Thames or its environs, apart from Council's Lowe Avenue block (about 4 ha.) where it is estimated that at least to 24 2 B/R dwellings could be built - perhaps more.

That would an excellent start, and one long advocated by Thames Housing Trust Chair – Peter Wood. Unfortunately there has been a long-standing reluctance on the part of staff, or councillors, or both to move on this, and the land emains unused.

This does not come close to dealing with the other issues raised in ‘Lets’ excellent post, but response to the post has been excellent, and it is an appropriate time to raise these issues as the new Council assembles, and discusses its programs, both short and long term.

The obsession with tourism that occupied the previous Council needs modification in order to ensure a more ‘balanced’ economic plan aimed a better quality of life for all residents.  “Trickle-down’ from tourism benefits a miniscule, but vocal section of community – one that was consistently favoured by Leach.  

It is time to apply pressure in order to ensure that this change takes place. I suspect that newly elected Mayor - Sandra Goudie will respond appropriately and get staff moving in the right direction.

 

 

 

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Reader Comments (3)

As Bill rightly points out, substandard and unaffordable housing is a major issue locally, but one that Council can play a very active role in alleviating – if it just has the political will to do so.

Plenty of other councils maintain an active portfolio of houses/flats for pensioners and others on low incomes – with rentals capped at 30% of gross income. Our Council could do the same if it chose to give this issue the priority it deserves. The Government has just announced it will effectively steal Labours long-standing Kiwi build policy and build hundreds of houses for rental to low income families. The penny has dropped for government, - when will it drop for Council?

There are other options for Council such as partnerships with non-profit organisations – for example Council did this a few years back with CILT in Coromandel town. Why could Council not search out partnerships with the Salvation Army and other similar organisations?

Housing affordability is much worse in Thames-Coromandel than nationally, and we have only a marginally better housing affordability index than Auckland. Although prices are higher in Auckland median incomes are much much lower here. See the data here

https://ecoprofile.infometrics.co.nz/Thames-Coromandel%2bDistrict/StandardOfLiving/Housing_Affordability

October 14, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterlets

Let me clarify one thing - I have never suggested that our council has a role as a primary provider of social housing - that is purely the role of Government in my view, using taxes that are raised for this purpose. If that is what 'Lets' is suggesting, then that is where we deviate. Rates simply do not qualify as the source of funding for this activity, and to use them for this purpose would simply alienate rate-payers. It is by no stretch 'core' business, not that that has deterred them in the past from engaging in business that is marginal to say the least.
But as I indicated in my post, most councils, including our own have land available that they can and should make available for this purpose, not simply sell off to developers, and then seek to join with Government for the purpose of providing suitable housing to meet the social need. Could I suggest that any councilor promoting the use of rates for this purpose will run into a brick-wall - of that I am certain, so why do it?
Other councils, and ours, have been involved in the past in this activity - our Thames pensioner housing is a prime example, but that was another age, and other circumstances - it is simply no longer affordable under current conditions.
And talk about partnerships with the Salvation Army, and others obfuscates the obvious primary source of funding - they are no better able to fund the building of what amounts to subsidized housing than councils, and such a suggestion again obscures the primary responsibility of Government - one that ours is only now, in the face of a 'crisis,' coming to accept, and rushing to meet. The total failure of ministers responsible - Nick Smith and Paula Bennett (and those of previous governments!) should not have gone unnoticed, as John Key sets about preparing his Government for the next election.
Sorry 'Lets' - your 'heart is on your sleeve,' and I have no problem giving oxygen for your views, but please don't envelope me in an attempt to shame our Council into a role in which I am totally opposed.
Bill

October 14, 2016 | Registered CommenterBill Barclay

My first sentence could have been worded better - the second half was my opinion - not yours. Where we disagree is on what constitutes an "active role"

The assumption is that Councillors and by proxy most residents would be opposed to the Council getting involved in social housing programs. But is this assumption correct? Have the public been asked lately? Maybe the political climate has changed in the last few years because housing unaffordability has become such an issue for so many, not just in Auckland but as the infrometrics data shows in this neck of the woods as well. And as I pointed out plenty of other councils do provide social housing without it seems a major public backlash.

October 14, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterlets

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