Brownlee plays down Chch housing crisis

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee has played down perceptions of a housing crisis in Christchurch, and says people across New Zealand are living in difficult situations.

In Parliament today he ruled out letting people live in undamaged houses in red zones, and said if an area had been deemed undesirable it would be contradictory to turn around and rent houses there.

"As people move out, many of these homes are damaged and do need to be demolished, so the nature of the neighbourhood is going to change very dramatically," he said.

Labour MP for Christchurch East Lianne Dalziel said there was a shortage of accommodation for people who had previously rented homes. She said the problem was immediate - people needed accommodation now.

"Emergency accommodation is only for people who had been displaced from their home by the earthquake," she said.

"The real issue is the displacement effect of people being in the market for the first time in many years with the additional resource of insurance money or the Government subsidy, which is only from those who are displaced from their homes from the earthquake."

She said there had been a chain reaction for people - some were displaced from access to rental properties because of someone who has been displaced from their home and now needed to rent a house.

Ms Dalziel said homeowners were now renting properties which meant the general house renting population was being marginalised.

"The minister clearly doesn't understand the nature of the problem,"

Mr Brownlee defended the work the Government was doing to house people in Christchurch, saying there was a significant pool of accommodation in Christchurch.

"I think the situation is getting better. You could go anywhere in New Zealand and find people living in difficult circumstances for any number of reasons - we're doing everything we can to create opportunities for people to have good accommodation in Christchurch," he said.

"My difficulty is that while we're seeing these cases [people living in cars, tents and caravans], when we do look into them there are opportunities for people," he said.

He said emergency accommodation services were available.

"We're doing everything we can to put accommodation in place for people and we still have less than 100 per cent occupancy of our temporary villages - we're building a further temporary village."

He said there would be 106 more state houses back in the system, and the Christchurch City Council had $23 million to repair 282 units and was building another temporary village.

Angry Christchurch Red Zone residents are taking their grievance with the Government to the United Nations.

Wider Earthquake Communities Action Network spokesman Brent Cairns said the zoning requirements outlined by Mr Brownlee were misleading.

He said government buyouts for the region breached the human rights of residents living in the community.

According to the UN, the right to adequate housing is a "key component in any humanitarian, reconstruction and development response to disaster."

- Kate Shuttleworth of APNZ

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