RENTAL SHORTAGE: COMMUNITY RALLIES FOR GARY
For about 20 years, Gary St Clair has called Whangamata¯ home.
A familiar face to many, Gary loves Whangamata¯ .
He is involved with the Baptist Church and enjoys attending the men’s groups, does his weekly paper round, plays bowls and enjoys going to the RSA.
He has lived in Whangamata¯ for 20 years and at his present address for more than 15.
It suited him well, as being close to the beach meant he could take his dog for walks.
However he’s almost had to relocate outside the community he feels comfortable and safe in because of a squeeze on finding a new place to live.
“Moving is causing him a lot of emotional anxiety and upset,” says Ngaire Leighton, his support person from Idea Services.
Idea Services helps adults of all ages with intellectual disabilities live independently and be a part of their local community.
“For a person in his situation with his intellectual disability and at his age of 56, moving isn’t an easy option.”
Gary does not need much — a self-contained kitchen and bathroom are the main prerequisites — and he was lucky to find a small place. It will need some work, but Whangamata¯ locals are already rallying to his aid.
Geoff March of Whangamata¯ Lions says a working bee on October 6 from 10am until noon will be a great chance for anyone with spare time to support Gary. Geoff has been working with Ngaire to get the place ship shape. From cleaning to the skills required for building a porch over one end of the small deck at his new home, all are welcome.
Vonny Davis, IDEA Services GM Northern area, says there was no community housing in Whangamata¯ . The service does everything possible to ensure that person can move to a home that works for them when they are given notice to vacate.
This may include finding short-term accommodation until there’s a long-term solution.
“We make sure no one is without a home. The current housing market in New Zealand is tough for all people searching for rental properties. We work closely alongside the people we support and their families to ensure suitable living arrangements are found.”
Across the hill in Thames, the Supported Lifestyle Hauraki Trust has 32 homes in historic Grahamstown, which have created a “community within a community” for people with special needs.
The location and community integration provide a feeling of pride and acceptance and a sense of contributing and belonging, according to the Trust, established by Murray Lynds and Peter Rutherford in 1994.
General manager Phil Wightman says organisations around New Zealand were struggling with the same pressures for finding affordable rental properties for vulnerable people.
“There are a lot of people wanting to come into our service. There’s obviously a massive shortage of rentals and we don’t have the solution.”
He believes the cost of living in Auckland has driven many elderly people south and put pressure on the rental market.
“People are being driven out of Auckland and coming down and buying up houses in Coromandel-thames. There’d be a lot of people in the same situation [as Gary] if it’s about finding a rental.”
He also agrees a critical shortage of rental accommodation in Whangamata¯ and elsewhere on the Coromandel is affecting people, not only those with special needs.
Ray White Whangamata¯ Property Manager Christine Fletcher says she does not have a single rental property on her books and “a whole folder full” of people looking.
“It’s pretty tough. I don’t have anything available that I can rent to anyone.” She says potential tenants range from singles looking for one bedroom through to families.
There are 39 rental properties listed on the Ray White Whangamata¯ site but they were all holiday home rentals at around $1000-plus per week.
Meanwhile the Government is seeking input from landlords, tenants and others, on proposed changes to the Residential Tenancies Act aimed at giving more security to tenants.
Among the changes considered is an end to ‘no cause’ terminations and increasing the amount of notice that landlords would have to give to terminate a tenancy from 42 days to 90 days. Landlords would only get 21 days’ notice. It is expected that any changes will come into force in 2020.
“It is already an offence to discriminate against any person on the basis of disability,” says Claire Leadbetter, MBIE Manager for Tenancy and Rental Housing Quality. “The reform provides an opportunity for people to have their say about how this is working. Submissions are open until 5pm, Sunday 21 October.”
■ Want to help Gary? Contact Geoff on 021 0257220 for the working bee.
Gary St Clair has lived in Whangamata¯ for 20 years and is hoping to find accommodation so he does not have to relocate.