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Call to action . . . Central Otago Budgeting Service office manager Pam Hughes urges people to take notice of a Central Otago housing study which outlines multiple cases of housing-related hardship as a result of the district's accommodation crisis. Radical solutions are needed to tackle the issue, the report says. PHOTO: PAM JONES

Central Otago residents and elected representatives are being urged to take action on housing issues, in the wake of a report outlining the extent and impact of the district’s accommodation crisis.

The draft of the Southern District Health Board’s “Central Otago Housing: The Human Story” report was released last week and it contained “harrowing” detail, Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan said.

The report outlined multiple examples of housing-related hardship and said radical solutions were needed to tackle the issue.

It said the lack of affordable housing was the negative side of the economic boom in Central Otago, and made 20 recommendations to try to solve the issue.

They include establishing an inter-agency task force, a “Central Otago Housing Action Plan”, and including affordable housing in the Central Otago District Council’s district plan and economic strategy.

The report also wants the Cromwell Community Board to give the Central Otago Affordable Housing Trust land so it can roll out a “secure homes” scheme.

The trust had identified various solutions to try to tackle the housing crisis and was waiting for the next term of councillors and community board members to consider its recommendations, attendees at a recent hui organised by the Alexandra Council of Social Services were told.

Mr Cadogan, who formed the affordable housing trust, is urging the next term of elected representatives to “take action” and put some of the recommendations in place. He is also waiting for a report on Central Otago housing he requested from council staff to be completed, and said housing was the most important issue facing the district.

Many candidates for this year’s local government elections, including fellow Central Otago mayoral candidate Victoria Bonham, are also worried about housing and want action. Ms Bonham said the Teviot Valley was another area that could be suitable for building affordable housing.

The health board report said there was no lead agency for housing in the district, but “by default” responsibility was “assumed” to fall on the council, which had taken some steps to address the problem but failed to take action in other areas.

However, the council “cannot solve the [housing] crisis alone”, the report said.

It said developer-led housing models and the private market “have failed the Central Otago community”, and failure to address housing would “continue the cycle of disadvantage . . . playing out for local residents”.

Alexandra Community House manager Carole Gillions, who helped organise the recent community hui, said last month many in the district still did not realise how bad the housing crisis was and how it affected other areas, and it was vital to make the seriousness of the issue public and find solutions to it.

The hui, which was called because of the urgent need to address several issues in the district, including the accommodation crisis, resulted in three subgroups being formed to address issues in the areas of housing, ageing and diversity.

Central Otago Budgeting Service office manager Pam Hughes said the housing group had since proposed the formation of a housing co-ordinator and was seeking funding for the role.

Mrs Hughes said she wished people would “realise how hard things are” for many others in the district.

“There are people who don’t even know there is such a need [for housing] . . . because if it’s not affecting them they think that there’s not a need here. But that’s the reality of the situation. It’s hard to explain how bad things are.”

PERSONAL STORIES:

  • Multiple accounts of people living in tents in winter.
  • People also sleeping on the street or in their vehicles.
  • A parent and three children sleeping in the same room.
  • Seventeen people living in one house.
  • A person living in a garage since December.
  • Children living in camping grounds arriving late and unsettled to school.
  • One boy going without food so his brother could eat.
  • Clusters of people in flats with mental health or drug problems.
  • Some landlords putting rents up by between $50 and $200 a week.

HOUSING STUDY:

  • “Desperate” people living in substandard housing, camping grounds or sleeping rough.
  • Housing crisis having “devastating” impact on the mental health of people affected by housing issues.
  • Overcrowding of homes becoming increasingly common.
  • The mixed housing now typical of some areas exposing vulnerable people to drug use by their housemates.
  • Many people cannot afford healthcare, heating or proper food because of skyrocketing rents.
  • Domino effect sees problem shift from town to town and commuting increases.
  • Power imbalance develops between landlords and tenants.
  • Multiple families leaving Central Otago because of unaffordable housing.

AT A GLANCE:

  • SDHB study finds multiple cases of housing-related hardship.
  • Says accommodation crisis negative consequence of Central Otago boom.
  • Says many in community do not realise extent of problem.
  • Calls for radical solutions from all sectors of society.
  • Housing report ‘harrowing’

PAM.JONES

@alliedpress.co.nz