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Demand for community housing in Dunedin continues to rise as more people find rents in the city unaffordable.
As of the end of December, 218 people were on the council’s community housing waiting list, up from 160 in May.
Of the 218, 136 were over 55 years old.
People over 55 and on low incomes were given priority when applying for a housing unit.
Dunedin City Council manager housing Alana Reid said while the number of people waiting for community housing was higher than usual, it was at a similar level in 2006 and 2007.
People seeking council housing had reported they could no longer afford private rentals, Ms Reid said.
Council housing staff worked closely with applicants and referred them to other housing providers where appropriate, which had reduced the waiting time for some, she said.
Some people chose to stay on the waiting list until a specific unit or accommodation in a specific area became available.At least one social agency says the housing situation in the city has never been worse.
Salvation Army Dunedin City Corps executive ministry leader David McKenzie said the housing shortage in Dunedin was as bad as it had ever been.
"Across social agencies we are seeing more people in motels and more people waiting for social housing, all the way from single people to quite large families. It’s possibly as bad as it ever has been, or even worse."
While temporary accommodation was available for most people in need, the shortage of long-term affordable housing was the main issue.
"At the end of the day it’s the supply and cost of housing that’s the issue and we might be able to put people in a house or motel for awhile, but then what?" Mr McKenzie said.
Some relief might come in the form of a mayoral task force on housing, which was proposed in the council’s draft 10-year plan, but that was still some months away from being formed.
Mr McKenzie said while the council would not be able to solve the problem, it could make a greater contribution.
"This is one area which tends to fall off the priority list for councils, so I think it’s fair to keep asking what the council is doing and keep them honest."
Council manager community development and events Joy Gunn said the task force would be established within the next few months. Once established it would report regularly to the council. Social housing needs would be the first focus for the task force, which would also consider and make recommendations on increasing affordable and healthy housing.
Meanwhile, the social housing register, managed by the Ministry of Social Development was at 87 as of the end of December. It is the highest it has been since 2014, which is as far back as the ministry’s records go.