Reprinted from The Press
Social agencies fear for city's homeless
By LIZ MCDONALD
Social agencies fear Christchurch's most vulnerable citizens are facing homelessness and say the problem is getting worse.
A shortage of houses since the earthquakes has already pushed up rents and led to reports of tenants forced into poor-quality homes.
"This is the tip of the iceberg, and the iceberg is going to be bigger than Mt Cook," Lana Hart of Settlement Support told a crisis housing forum held in the city.
Settlement Support, which helps refugees and other migrants, is struggling to find suitable homes for new arrivals and Hart expected tradesmen arriving for the rebuild to exacerbate the problem.
"As we get more coming in, they are going to push out the people at the bottom of the market. How can we get more employers to provide their own housing so they are not pushing other people out?"
Anni Watkin, manager of Youth and Cultural Development, said her organisation hunted out beds for 17-year-olds leaving Child, Youth and Family Care. They had placed only one youth in seven months. No more sympathetic landlords with cheap flats or inexpensive hotel rooms were left, she told the forum.
"We are unable to secure any form of tenancy at all now – it's all too dear."
St John of God Waipuna housing worker Paul McMahon said young solo parents and teenagers were "already at the bottom of the housing ladder, and now it's worse.
"If you are 17, or a single person on a benefit, landlords don't want to rent you a house."
Some were being forced back into unsafe situations with step-parents, or into damaged, damp homes.
"We need solutions. If we don't start doing something about this, we are breeding a social disaster," McMahon said.
"We are going to end up with a whole generation of children with bad health."
Other speakers at the forum expressed concern that mental health patients and people with addiction problems would be left homeless, that the housing problems would worsen with winter, and that elderly tenants were scared to complain about unfit housing.
A Christchurch City Council housing officer said one man was given city housing after being found living in his car.
Mary McGrath, supervisor of the Christchurch City Mission night shelter, said the men in its beds had nowhere else to go.
"We are turning people away now."
Penny Taylor, of Presbyterian Support, said property developers needed incentives to build low-cost housing because "single people on low incomes cannot afford to go into these flash subdivisions".
Real estate agent and property manager Tony Brazier told the forum that while three-bedroom houses were the most scarce now, smaller homes would be in demand by overseas tradesmen. Brazier said more lodge-style accommodation was needed along the lines of Wigram Lodge, a Sockburn complex for single people, but that was "already full of construction workers".
A housing register and fitness certificates for rental homes was suggested by Ali Brunel, of the Tenants Protection Association. Brunel said such schemes were common overseas, usually through local councils, and were not expensive or unrealistic.
"We are talking basic, minimum standards, not luxury."
Information given to the forum by government and council officers included:The temporary government villages at Linwood and Kaiapoi are full.
Housing New Zealand lost almost 700 Christchurch state homes in the earthquakes and there are more inside red zones.
Christchurch City Council lost 361 council homes and has 214 people on its waiting list.
Over 1800 people have approached authorities seeking temporary accommodation.
5800 homeowners are receiving rental insurance payouts and another 900 are getting emergency rental allowances.