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New senior housing policy adopted to ensure sustainability

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A comprehensive review of Hastings District Council’s senior housing portfolio has resulted in a new policy and rent increase, to ensure the ongoing sustainability of this service for some of the district’s senior residents. 

Council’s senior housing, comprising nine complexes with 220 homes across Hastings, Havelock North and Flaxmere, has been operating since the mid-1960s – providing safe and affordable accommodation. 

In recent years there has been a significant increase in demand (the waiting list is currently sitting at 250 people), along with increased costs including insurance and maintenance. 

The policy review undertaken over the past few months has been aimed at finding the best way to address the challenges of providing this housing, keeping residents’ wellbeing at the forefront, but also creating sustainable solutions that do not require ratepayer funding. 

Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said the new policy and rent increase involved some challenging decision-making for Council, balancing the needs of senior people in the community who had limited housing options, with the fact that the current funding model was not viable in the long run.  

“Our older people are very important to us, and we know that it’s going to be very unsettling for some to learn of these rent increases. 

“We are working closely with Ministry of Social Development to help our residents access any central government-funded accommodation supplements they are eligible for, so the effects on them personally can be minimised. 

“We have arranged a series of in-person information sessions with each of our senior housing communities where our housing team will talk through the changes. We are committed to working with every resident to find a solution.

“For those on a basic superannuation income it’s expected they will be able to get a higher accommodation subsidy to help them meet the new rents. Each case, however, will be different depending on people’s individual circumstances.” 

The rental increase will come into effect at the end of January 2024, and sets all rents at $260 a week. This will bring rents up to 65 per cent of the market value for properties of a similar size, age and condition. (The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development definition of affordable housing is 80 per cent of market value). 

The newly adopted policy has also raised the age of eligibility for a Council senior housing unit from 55 years or over to 65 years or older. (The 55-year-old age criteria was set at a time when there were vacancies in the units. The 65 years age eligibility is in line with other councils.) 

The policy also ensures that senior housing goes to people based on need, remains affordable and is financially sustainable for the benefit of residents, Council and the wider community. 

“By taking this approach we are in the best position to achieve our goal of continuing to provide affordable and sustainable senior housing,” Mrs Hazlehurst said.

All rental income from senior housing is ring-fenced, so can only be spent on improving these housing facilities. 

2 November 2023

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