Entitled to misgivings
There was no other option for Housing New Zealand but to strengthen or demolish severely earthquake-prone state houses in Porirua, but you can’t blame residents for feeling anxious or angry.
Forty-four tenants from 27 units are being forced from their homes due to the quake risk posed by brick walls between flats and brick chimneys.
The nine buildings meet less than 20 per cent of code. Housing NZ has to act, and there is no way for the properties to remain inhabitable while the strengthening work is carried out.
At least half of the tenants have already been found alternative housing, no mean feat given most families applying for a state house must wait for at least a year.
But the tenants of at-risk units in the Castor Loop feel jilted by the piecemeal wearing down of their community.
The global economic crisis was likely a big factor in Housing NZ’s failure to secure a private partner for its Castor Loop project, which saw 27 old state houses bulldozed to make way for between 15 and 22 new rental units, a mix of private and state.
But it was always going to be an ambitious venture. There were – and still remain – so many other residential development options in Porirua which offer greater return and fewer concessions.
And it is the Castor Loop residents who have had to live among the empty lots for the past three years and, reportedly, among empty and firedamaged houses that have seen little attention from their owner.
Housing NZ has had a busy schedule of energyefficiency retrofits but it needs to remember that when you own every, or almost every, house on the block, you’re not only responsible for maintaining the health and safety of the buildings, you’re responsible for the social health and safety of a neighbourhood.