Community housing cull proposed as best option

Southland District Council will have a closer look at its community housing activities after a report said its best option was for the council to simply shut the scheme down.

Council will consider this week the approval of a business case to identify all the issues and options for the future of community housing throughout the district.

Manager Property Services Kevin McNaught said there were 69 units in the council’s community houses, situated in 10 different townships.

From those, five were vacant and 78%, or 52 units, were tenanted by pensioners.

He said there were numerous "issues" associated with this activity, including affordability of managing the activity and maintaining appropriate rental rates; a lack of clarity around need and purpose for the activity; resourcing; suitability of current stock in terms of condition and location; and an increasingly regulated environment.

"Dealing with these has made the operations and future planning for this activity very challenging."

He suggested council should approve the scope of a business case to explore the options and to approve an unbudgeted expenditure up to $50,000 so the project could get going.

The $50,000 cost would be allocated from the community housing reserve.

The request followed a decision made on February 2018 when councillors received a report which was carried by the management consulting firm Morrison Low about the service delivery models for various activities in the community services area.

From the activities investigated, the report author chose a "preferred option" for council to cease to provide community housing at an agreed time, because as that would "remove any risk" to council, plus would have a financial benefit.

However, the report stated the matter should be subject to public consultation as the option could cause "community discontent".

The second-choice option was a "status quo" approach which would enable council to continue to deliver community housing in accordance with council strategy and for council to maintain the service.

At the time, councillors resolved to adopt all of the preferred options in the Morrison Low Report in a staged approach, including the development of a business case.

About three years later, the matter will return to Southland District Council’s table for further consideration.

Southland Mayor Gary Tong was unable to be reached for comment about the community housing issue, which is due to be discussed at Wednesday’s council meeting.

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