Napier City Council retirement village tenants worry about future

Arthur Richards Village residents Jennifer Rouse (left) and Marko Pearson worry about their future.

Two meetings organized by Napier City Council to discuss future social housing options have left some residents feeling cold.

“They basically want us to check the box. That’s not an option. We don’t have a voice and we feel left out of the discussions,” says Arthur Richards Village resident Jennifer Rouse.

The March meetings, held to discuss the possibility of the council selling its flats, took place in the Greenmeadows East Community Hall and Arthur Richards Village Hall, both at 5.30pm, which some members found annoying.

“There were people here with carers at the time and others having tea. There weren’t many people there because of the weather. It’s a bunch of people not being heard “, explains Marko Pearson, resident.

The meeting was not well attended and questions were rushed, according to the couple.

“It was presented in a very formal way and there was a time commitment from the board.”

Jennifer thinks it’s a foregone conclusion that the apartments will be sold.

“I think the council wants to wash their hands of it. Luckily Maxine Boag is fighting for the council to become a Community Housing Provider (CHP).”

Marko says the government initially gave money to the council to set up social housing and wants clarification on the council’s original contractual obligation.

“Who has the commitment to social housing? I believe it will be in the fine print somewhere.”

The couple fear that the apartments will fall into the hands of Kainga Ora, who they say is not a specialist in housing for the elderly and disabled.

“If he goes to an organization like Kainga Ora, what guarantee will he remain a retirement village rather than social housing?”

Jennifer says all the money collected from council flat rents goes into a pot.

“I believe $2.4 million a year since 2018 has been earmarked for social housing. Where is that money? Where was it spent? None of these units have been updated to current requirements unless a new tenant moves in.”

She says another option is if the village is run by a trust.

“PSEC is a classic example where you have aged care housing under the umbrella of professional aged care. We don’t necessarily have to fall under a government portfolio – it’s scary.”

Resident Barbara Brophy wants Arthur Richards Village to be kept as a retirement village.

“The council has always had accommodation. They have always provided retirement villages for people who can’t afford to run their own home. It’s a tradition – why change it now?”

Age Concern Napier director Morag Hill had ‘light talk’ with council and says she was given assurances residents would not be ‘thrown out on the streets’.

“I can understand residents being incredibly worried, but if the apartments are sold there will be a lot of covenants and covenants to protect them,” she says.

Napier Mayor Kirsten Wise is also keen to allay any fears tenants may have.

“I know this has been a stressful time for our tenants and I have personally reassured them that whatever option we go forward, they will not be forced to leave their apartment.

“We know that if we decide to keep most or all of the housing, there will be a cost that will have to be funded by increasing rates, rent, or a combination of the two,” she said.

“We received over 250 submissions, with a good response from tenants and the wider community. All factors, including the well-being of our tenants and the wider community, will be taken into account when hearing of submissions on May 18.”

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