An urgent public meeting is being called in Napier tonight to discuss latest developments in a housing crisis in which dozens of Housing New Zealand tenants are being asked to look for new homes.
Some tenants in the Maraenui area have been given 90 days to vacate so that the state housing rental agency can sell or redevelop properties in a major shake-up of housing for lower-income families.
As demolition started last week with the removal of the first of five blocks, which have been empty for up to 15 months, other tenants were receiving notices saying their homes are earthquake-prone and must be vacated.
Those tenants are being offered alternatives, and will be given up to three options, with financial assistance in transferring their homes, possibly to tenantable properties among about 65 already vacant in the suburb of Maraenui and fringe areas of Marewa and Onekawa.
"Unfortunately there are around 65 empty properties in Maraenui despite our efforts to try and tenant them," Housing NZ Corporation asset development general manager Sean Bignell said. Although some people in the area seeking Housing NZ rentals say they are being referred to private rent managers or told that while they already have somewhere to live, including garages and caravans, they do not meet criteria.
Mr Bignell says 24 properties have been identified as potentially earthquake prone, and as in similar situations throughout the country the agency is working with tenants to rehouse them in safer properties.
Already gone is a two-storey, double unit building from 1 Darwin Cres, part of which was a former base for a local community trust.
The same is happening this week to a block across the street, the buildings containing some of at least 17 units or houses which have been left empty around the Maraenui Shopping Centre.
The meeting at the Maraenui Shopping Centre, starting at 5.30pm, is being called by action group Tu Tangata Maraenui to further highlight what is happening in the community, including the upheaval of an estimated 7-10 per cent of its households.
Meeting facilitator and area city council ward member Maxine Boag said the people needed to know that not all the demolished homes were going to be replaced by "nice new state houses".
"As is happening in other parts of the country, the Government has tightened criteria for state houses, and is selling off the homes and sections that they have emptied out to the private sector," Ms Boag said. She said she believes that for every 100 state houses, 70 will be offered to developers for private sale and 15 per cent will be offered to social housing providers, of which none have yet been identified in Napier. She said just 15 per cent will be retained for state housing.
It was a huge and potentially irreversible loss of affordable housing for low-income families, with evidence that the government policy change had resulted in increased overcrowding in homes, because people could not afford the cost of rental at market rates, Ms Boag said.
The community is particularly concerned about gaping holes appearing in the area as buildings are removed, including most of the properties on two of the three legs of the triangle surrounding the Maraenui Shopping Centre.
The group is joining a hikoi to Parliament in early November, with groups from the Hutt Valley and Auckland.
Mr Bignell says Housing NZ is actively encouraging opportunities for community housing providers to be established in the area and is working with developers to provide a more viable mix, including opportunities for affordable or entry-level home ownership.
"Because no redevelopment plans have been finalised, it would be premature to speculate on the numbers of housing type that might make up this mix," he said.