Housing issues subject of health board study

Dr Marion Poore
Dr Marion Poore
A far-reaching study into Central Otago's housing situation is being done by the Southern District Health Board, in response to concerns about housing in the area.

The study, from March to May, would gather information from social service agencies and the education sector, health board medical officer of health Dr Marion Poore said.

Surveys would also be done with families attending health clinics for oral health checks and before-school checks.

A report of the findings would be completed by the end of June. It would help various organisations with planning and advocacy for relevant housing policy, and with any recommendations the SDHB may make about how to address the issues, Dr Poore said.

A similar project would hopefully be done in the Queenstown Lakes district in months to come, she said.

The project was being done in response to concerns from Central Otago people and those within community-based health care services about "different aspects of housing", Dr Poore said.

Issues included access to housing, affordability and quality. The impact of housing issues on health and education was also noted.

Alexandra Council of Social Services chairwoman Jill Tosswill said the housing situation was at a "critical" and "crisis" level.

She would like to see areas with empty retail space in Central Otago rezoned and redeveloped as housing, to help create more rental accommodation.

She said there were "pockets of our community" who still had "little idea" of how hard it was for some to find affordable and suitable accommodation.

Central Otago Budgeting Service office manager Pam Hughes said as well as high rental costs, people were facing other high costs across the board, and "increasingly complex issues". Her team saw about 30 clients a month. She did not have last year's figures, but said the past year's caseload was "definitely up on the previous year".

Mrs Hughes knew of many people who were now having to board or house-share for financial reasons, but this could open up "a whole new can of worms ... sometimes it works, but sometimes it makes vulnerable people more vulnerable".

Family Works Central Otago (Presbyterian Support Otago) team leader Stewart Hawkins said he suspected many of the people in freedom camping areas were not visitors to the area, but in fact Central Otago residents moving around the different areas while they could not find other accommodation.

A Central Otago Affordable Housing Trust was formed in 2017 after a strong push from Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan.

No-one from the trust was available this week to provide an update on the trust's progress.

A Housing New Zealand spokesman said there were 19 Housing New Zealand properties in Central Otago and all were tenanted.

A Ministry for Social Development spokesman said seven Central Otago people were on the housing register waiting for public housing to become available.

Personal stories

Examples of people living in unsuitable accommodation because they cannot find anywhere affordable to rent, detailed in a report to last week’s Central Otago District Council meeting.
●An employed male living in his car because he cannot find anywhere affordable.
●An employed male who has arranged to live in a tent in an orchard in the winter because there is nowhere else.
●Families living in camping grounds, including a parent and four children, a male in a caravan and a family with one member needing a high level of healthcare.
●A working solo mum who had to move into a family member’s overcrowded home after her rental home was sold.
●Two cases of people in their 50s or older having to board privately.
●People leaving Central Otago because they cannot afford to live in the district.


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