Pen­sioner hous­ing sale still ran­kles

The Horowhenua Mail - - FRONT PAGE - MIRI SCHROETER

‘‘[The] coun­cil has debt, as we all know, and we just can't build any more in the near fu­ture.’’

The sale of Horowhenua District Coun­cil-owned pen­sioner hous­ing is still rankling res­i­dents, who want the pur­chase stopped.

A coun­cil meet­ing on Wed­nes­day started on a high note with a per­for­mance by the Waiopehu Col­lege bar­ber­shop quar­tet, but the mood soon changed as res­i­dents pushed to keep 115 pen­sioner hous­ing units in the coun­cil’s pos­ses­sion.

The sale of the units in Shan­non, Fox­ton and Levin, as well as 1.1 hectare of land in Waimarie Park, has been a bug­bear for res­i­dent Chris­tine Mo­ri­arty for months.

She and other pub­lic speak­ers have voiced their con­cerns about the sale at numer­ous coun­cil meet­ings.

Mo­ri­arty even started a pe­ti­tion against the sale and gath­ered more than 2000 sig­na­tures.

The coun­cil voted to re­ceive the pe­ti­tion, en­dorsed by the Horowhenua District Res­i­dents’ and Ratepay­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion, the Labour Party and New Zealand First at the meet­ing.

But bring­ing the is­sue to the fore­front again did not sway the coun­cil­lors, who de­cided in June to sell the houses to Com­pas­sion Hous­ing.

Cr Piri-Hira Tuka­pua said the new own­ers were an off­shoot of Sis­ters of Com­pas­sion, a Catholic or­gan­i­sa­tion that founded a soup kitchen to feed home­less peo­ple in Welling­ton.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion went above and be­yond to pro­vide good ser­vices and Com­pas­sion Hous­ing was in a far bet­ter po­si­tion to build on the land, she said.

‘‘[The] coun­cil has debt, as we all know, and we just can’t build any more in the near fu­ture.’’

Sell­ing the hous­ing was the best de­ci­sion at the time and the res­i­dents would be bet­ter off, Tuka­pua said.

The av­er­age age of the hous­ing is about 40 years and the coun­cil ex­pects 50 to 60 per cent will need re­plac­ing in the next 20 to 25 years, at a cost of about $4.3 mil­lion.

Coun­cil spokesman Kelvin Teix­iera said a $5.2m out­stand­ing loan from Hous­ing New Zealand to the coun­cil would be trans­ferred to Com­pas­sion Hous­ing.

This would re­duce the coun­cil’s debt by $367,000 an­nu­ally.

Mo­ri­arty was con­cerned the age­ing pop­u­la­tion in Horowhenua would be af­fected.

Al­most 24 per cent of peo­ple in Horowhenua are older than 65, com­pared with 14.3 per cent of the to­tal New Zealand pop­u­la­tion, ac­cord­ing to the 2013 cen­sus.

She also ques­tioned why the houses were sold for less than they were worth.

‘‘It leaves res­i­dents think­ing it’s a dodgy deal.’’

A doc­u­ment ob­tained by Stuff in July re­vealed the rate­able value of the hous­ing units was $9.2m. But, they were sold for $5.5m.

The doc­u­ment – a pro­posal the coun­cil calls a ‘‘com­mu­nity hous­ing trans­fer’’ – says the coun­cil aimed to ‘‘re­ceive a fair mar­ket value on sale’’.

The coun­cil con­firmed the sale price was less than $7.19m – the prop­erty port­fo­lio’s rate­able value – but did not give a sale price.

At the coun­cil meet­ing, mayor Michael Feyen, who has al­ways op­posed the sale, said it was a demo­cratic de­ci­sion, but he was still against it.

The sale will be set­tled by September 30.

PHOTO: WAR­WICK SMITH/STUFF

A pe­ti­tion against the sale of pen­sioner hous­ing in Levin and Shan­non won’t make any dif­fer­ence. Cr Piri-Hira Tuka­pua

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