11% rent increase seen as too steep

Photo: ODT Files
Photo: ODT Files
Dunedin community housing residents have spoken up about why they believe a proposed 11% rental rise is too steep.

Several residents presented submissions at a Dunedin City Council annual plan hearing yesterday.

Nigel Westbrook said the council provided a valuable community service and he was grateful for it.

"However, because of our limited means, we are very sensitive to any increased costs," he said.

Superannuation was barely enough to live on even for people who owned a home, he said.

Mr Westbrook suggested a 3% rent rise.

The council has said an 11% increase would cover the increased cost to operate the portfolio, including rates, insurance and interest.

It is consulting with tenants directly, as well as through the draft annual plan.

Carole Taurua-McCready told councillors the proposed rent increase was "rather high for the state of our flats".

Her unit in Ethel St had problems with moisture in winter, Ms Taurua-McCready said.

She hoped the block could have double-glazing, she said.

Despite the odd issue, she regarded her accommodation as a godsend.

"I love my little whare, my little flat," she said.

A council spokesman said Healthy Homes standards were about heating, ventilation and stopping draughts.

"Our focus over the past two years has been on completing Healthy Homes upgrades, and other than two properties with particularly challenging issues the work is now complete," he said.

Of the council’s 940 housing units, 110 were double-glazed.

South Dunedin Community Network spokeswoman Eleanor Doig said increasing rents for vulnerable people was unethical.

"If you try to live on a benefit with an 11% increase in your costs, that is heartless," she said.

"I strongly suggest you don’t even consider putting up their rents," Ms Doig said.

Grey Power Otago president Jo Millar said most members she had talked to understood the rents would need to go up.

"The majority I’ve spoken to are quite accepting of it."

Another prominent issue from submissions that was raised at the hearing yesterday was funding for Tūhura Otago Museum.

Museum director Ian Griffin thanked ratepayers for their ongoing investment in the institution.

It was proposed the museum would not get an increase in its levy this year and Dr Griffin said this was effectively a budget cut during a time of inflation.

The museum has sought an increase of 5%.

He described funding as an investment in the future of the city and supporting lifelong learning.

"It’s an investment in fostering a sense of pride and identity in our community, as we celebrate the richness of our past and we embrace the possibilities of the future," Dr Griffin said.

Tūhura expects a record 400,000 people to come through its doors this year.

Cr Andrew Whiley floated the idea of a charge for international visitors or people from outside the city.

This might apply to the museum, Toitū Otago Settlers Museum and the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, he suggested.

Dr Griffin said other centres were looking at this.

"In our case, it would make our operation more complicated."