More work to do on housing access

Rory Hibbs. Photo: Linked In
Rory Hibbs. Photo: Linked In
The Dunedin City Council and government agencies say they are committed to supporting people with disabilities into accessible housing, but acknowledge there is more work to do.

The council owns 936 units across Dunedin City and Mosgiel, but does not have accurate records of modifications.

There are 267 applicants on the waiting list for council housing, including four wheelchair users and four people requesting ramped access because of limited mobility.

Council property manager Rory Hibbs said the council had engaged new contractors, who would collect modifications data over the next six months.

When the council built community houses, it included at least one accessible unit in each block of flats, Mr Hibbs said.

The council also took the opportunity to create accessible homes during redevelopment.

"For example, we are currently redeveloping our School St site, which will involve demolishing nine units and replacing them with 10 fully accessible units.''

At present, Kainga Ora (formerly Housing NZ) has about 140 homes in Dunedin that have had modifications made for better accessibility.

These range from handrails to wheelchair ramps, widened doorways, wet-area bathrooms and modified kitchens.

About 60 of these 140 properties have wheelchair access and 90 have wet-area showers.

A Kainga Ora spokesman said the Crown agency was committed to continually improving on how it worked with and supported people in need of accessible housing.

"This includes a commitment from us to build more accessible homes and to understand how we can better support our customers with homes that meet their needs,'' the spokesman said.

"However, almost all of our standardised plans for new builds already meet universal design criteria, meaning they can be accessed by all people regardless of age or ability.''

Kainga Ora did not determine which specific modifications needed to be made for better accessibility, this being assessed on a case-by-case basis by the ACC or the Ministry of Health.

Ministry of Social Development general manager housing Karen Hocking said the agency was "committed to supporting our clients who need help with housing however we can and as soon as we can''.

The agency's role was to assess people's needs for public housing and if they or a family member needed an accessible home, this was captured as part of the assessment process, she said.

"We also have a range of ways that we can help our clients with housing costs, including making sure people with an urgent housing need have somewhere warm, dry and safe to stay.''

BRENDA.HARWOOD @thestar.co.nz

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