Serious housing issue, council told

Marion Poore
Marion Poore
Housing issues need to be given more weight by the Central Otago District Council in its economic development strategy to acknowledge major issues emerging in the district, Southern District Health Board (SDHB) medical officer of health Dr Marion Poore says.

Consideration of housing issues would be "fundamental" to the success of the updated 2019-23 strategy, Dr Poore said when speaking to the council on her submission on the strategy.

Council chief executive Sanchia Jacobs said housing was already included in the strategy - "it's whether or not you [councillors] think it's enough".

Dr Poore said housing had a massive effect on a population's health and the productivity of a region's workforce.

Research showed 30% of people treated in hospital were there "because of some kind of housing issue".

The health board knew there were many "old and cold" houses in the southern region, an Eeca (Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority) report showing only 17% of houses built before 2000 were fully insulated.

The health board is at present doing a major study on housing issues in the district, after hearing of the seriousness of the issue from social service agencies.

Dr Poore said preliminary findings showed there were "clearly not enough houses" in Central Otago, particularly in Cromwell, and the shortage was "cascading" through the district.

Trends noted included a large number of people working in Queenstown and Wanaka but living in Central Otago, and competing with Central Otago residents for accommodation.

"This in turn means that people in Central are being pushed out into smaller towns."

It was also creating a high population turnover, as people discovered they could not find accommodation or afford to live in Central Otago.

Another trend was employers of seasonal staff renting houses for them, and those houses sometimes being empty throughout the rest of the year. This was creating "some ill-feeling" towards some seasonal staff, and a perception they were "taking away houses".

Other trends were the accommodation shortage causing difficulties for some organisations in attracting qualified staff, for example in the mental health and social work sectors; and people arriving in Central Otago "unprepared for the cost of living and the cold winters" adding to the workload of social service agencies.

Cr Stephen Jeffery said the council already knew housing was an issue.

"It's solutions that we need."

The CODC has already committed $50,000 towards the Central Otago Affordable Housing Trust for it to do a housing needs assessment, and the council's strategy and policy work programme will also look at the council's approach to housing.

The economic development strategy was adopted by councillors with some small amendments from the draft, as recommended by acting economic development manager Rebecca McElrea after public consultation.

Councillors did not request any other amendments relating to housing.

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