Kāinga Ora’s plans for state housing in New Plymouth have come under scrutiny at an outreach event in the city.
The government housing provider is proposing to build more than 100 new homes in Ngāmotu and currently has a 44-unit apartment block under construction in the CBD.
To free up land, it wants to demolish 40 state houses across five suburbs and replace them with up to 125 brand-new homes in medium-density developments.
Young mother Crystal, who attended the event at the Puke Ariki library, was worried about being forced to leave her Frankleigh Park home.
“I just don’t think it’s fair that we’re getting moved out of our homes and apparently may not be able to move back.
“I have a three-bedroom home and they’re building two-bedroom homes on my section, but next door they’re building two three-bedroom homes and I feel we should be entitled to have one.”
Her children were settled in school and happy in the area, she said.
“Because we’ve lived here so long, our neighbours look after each other and I don’t want to be put into an area that we don’t know.”
Kāinga Ora event coordinators reassured Crystal there was a good chance she would be able to stay in the neighbourhood.
But they could not mollify Sandra Sharrock.
She had got wind that Kāinga Ora had bought several sections in a development behind her home and business in Spotswood.
“I know some of the sections have been bought privately, so now they’re going to put a whole lot of rentals amongst people who’ve just paid a lot of money for private sections. I’m just interested. I have concerns it’s going to turn into a slum.”
Sharrock could not get the answers she wanted from the Kāinga Ora staff at the event, but in a statement regional director Graeme Broderick confirmed the purchase.
“Most recently, we have purchased sites at 70-74 Eliot Street and 86 Lemon Street, along with 12 lots at 174 South Road where more warm, dry and modern homes will be built.
“Kāinga Ora purchased the Eliot and Lemon St site for $3.2 million. Due to commercial sensitivities, we cannot confirm the price of the South Road site just yet.”
Broderick said the Spotswood development would be of a high standard.
“The need for housing has increased steadily over the years in New Plymouth and we are pleased that, through this land purchase, we will be able to provide a home for so many families close to schools, services and amenities.
“Kāinga Ora homes are built to a good quality using designs that complement the environment and that are in keeping with the neighbourhood.”
EJ Barrett was on the Housing Register and had spent time homeless.
She was looking forward to the new housing in the city.
“I am so stoked to see how many properties have been acquired by Kāinga Ora recently and that provides me with a lot of hope.
“It’s still not enough. There’s more than 200 families in emergency housing in Taranaki alone and [many more] on the wait list still.
“But I’m glad that it’s happening… it’s a start.”
A wheelchair user, Barrett wanted to know how many of the new homes had been designed with accessibility in mind.
“My current understanding is that Kāinga Ora is not interested in making second and third level storeys accessible under universal design and I don’t believe I’m seeing a lot of lower-storey homes being built with universal design either.
“That’s what I’m hoping to find out those numbers.”
Broderick said there were “a number of accessible homes” included in Kāinga Ora’s city-wide plans, and it would work with its customers and partner agencies to modify homes to meet the needs of its customers.
Retiree Robyn was looking for a long-term housing solution.
“I’m three years shy of 70 and got a wee dog. I would really like to get into cheaper housing that I know will be for my duration, basically. So, I’ve just come along to see if I could learn any new information.”
She was optimistic Kāinga Ora could help.
“There’s going to be a few houses ready in the middle of next year, so we’ll just say our prayers to the goddess and see how we go.”
Lois was a property investor.
“We know the demand is real and it’s awesome that they are building the places, but they have to do it properly otherwise they’re just going to open up a lot of problems. It’s the right thing to do, but they have to do it properly.”
She worried about some of the decision making.
“For example, they are building balconies facing the one-way system [on the apartment development] and they will probably have washing hanging up there and god knows what else, and have they thought about that?”
Lois also had concerns about the lack of parking at the Eliot Street complex.
Broderick said the agency had been engaging with the community for several months, sharing its plans and answering questions and would continue to do so.
“Our aim is to not only provide warm, dry and healthy homes, but also to support communities and build neighbourhoods. We want to work alongside the New Plymouth community to help build thriving, sustainable and inclusive communities.”
He said Kāinga Ora was working closely with New Plymouth District Council, local iwi and other stakeholders.
“With nearly 400 people on the Housing Register, these homes are a good start with helping meet the urgent need for more homes in New Plymouth.”
Broderick said in addition to the new builds, 51 existing Kāinga Ora homes had been upgraded through its retrofit programme with four more due to be completed this month.
“This work adds another 50 years of life to the home, and makes them warmer, drier and healthier by installing full insulation, double glazing, improved airtightness, ventilation and new heating.”
By Robin Martin of rnz.co.nz