Elected members unanimously agreed that Council should progress with its investigation into how best to provide Elder Housing services in Tauranga.
At the Community and Culture Committee meeting today, elected members spoke of the importance in ensuring that our city’s Elder Housing tenants are receiving the best possible service to meet their needs now and in the future.
Councillor Terry Molloy, Chair of the Community and Culture Committee, says the decision came down to one overriding factor, tenant wellbeing.
“Our decision was heavily based on the desire to improve tenant wellbeing. One of Council’s key priorities is to provide a higher standard of living for all its residents, and that includes affordable, fit for purpose housing for our ageing population.”
An independent report, completed by the New Zealand Housing Foundation, recommended that Council sell its portfolio to a community housing provider (CHP). It also provided the option of Council retaining ownership and partnering with a CHP. A working group, which was established as part of the review, felt both options were worth pursuing and recommended that they are investigated further before a decision is made.
Council’s Elder Housing stock is ageing, with over one third of the units around 50 years old and none less than 25 years. On a fit for purpose basis, one village is in need of redevelopment within five years and at least three other villages within 10 years.
Furthermore, central government is encouraging local councils to move away from providing Elder Housing services through legislative changes. These changes make council tenants ineligible to access Income Related Rent Subsidies and limit Council’s access to government funding to build new units.
Cr Molloy says, “There is a growing need to increase the current Elder Housing stock to keep up with demand. We already have over 30 people on a waiting list who require affordable housing. Without access to government funding, it makes it very difficult for Council to provide a sustainable service going forward. If we stay with the status quo, it would be a disservice to the people who really need the support.”
Community housing providers can offer a more effective Elder Housing service than Council, whilst also providing wraparound services. They are better placed to improve the standard of housing, including increasing stock levels, through access to government grants and other funding such as subsidised rent for tenants.
“We are committed to finding the best way forward to ensure affordable Elder Housing can continue to be offered in Tauranga, while protecting the welfare and tenure of our current tenants,” says Cr Molloy.
The working group will investigate the two options in depth and report back to the Committee before the end of the year. Any future decision, would involve public consultation, before it was implemented.
Council recently carried out a review of its Elder Housing portfolio, operations and future service delivery, ahead of the 2018–28 Long Term Plan. The Local Government Act requires Council to periodically review the way a number of services are provided.
The New Zealand Housing Foundation (NZHF), an independent charitable trust, was commissioned by Council to review its current Elder Housing portfolio and service delivery while taking into account future demand for Elder Housing in Tauranga. NZFH provided a report on how this service can best be delivered in the future.
Alongside NZHF’s report, Council established a tenant advisory group and working group. A tenant from each of the nine Elder Housing villages in Tauranga made up the tenant advisory group. Representatives from a range of community organisations, government agencies, technical experts and a representative from the tenant advisory group, formed the working group.
Council has 246 Elder Housing units spread across nine villages in Greerton, Mount Maunganui and Tauranga Central.