Sat, May 11, 2024 8:00 AM

Marlborough’s pensioner housing under review


Maia Hart

The “high-level” review, by an external reviewer, will consider options on how best meet the needs of the community and the council’s 180 tenants.

The Marlborough District Council’s property and community facilities manager Jamie Lyall said the senior housing had its challenges, as most of the homes were more than 50 years old.

Their “very high” repair and maintenance costs were about 26 per cent of their total revenue, and depreciation of the properties was 35 per cent. It meant the portfolio ran at a small loss, although it was projected to reach break even in the 2027-28 financial year.

“So it's timely to actually do a review and look at the options that are available,” Jamie said to the council’s economic, finance and community committee on April 30.

Pensioners who lived in the flats had raised concerns about rent increases in the past, and some homes on Andrew Pl had needed refurbishing in 2021 as they did not meet “healthy home” standards.

A report prepared by Jamie for the meeting said the purpose of the review was to understand if the current operation of the council’s senior housing activity met the needs of the community.

It would also consider the council’s policy and role in seniors’ housing provision, asset and tenant management processes, opportunities to expand or diversify the portfolio, and future delivery options.

A kitchen in one of the council’s senior flats on Andrew Place in 2021. Photo: Supplied/Stuff

The council owned and managed 185 senior housing units across Marlborough, including in Renwick, Picton and Blenheim, with day-to-day management by APL Property.

Units ranged from bedsit to two-bedroom, although the majority had one bedroom.

The council’s policy was to set rent levels at 80 per cent of the market rate, the report said.

“The tenant entry criteria is low value asset ownership and superannuation eligibility.”

As councils could not gain Community Housing Provider status, they could not get government operational assistance, Jamie said.

The council had allocated $10,000 towards the review, from the $105,000 remaining from the “Better off” funding that paid for solar panels on Te Kahu o Waipuna, Blenheim’s new library and art gallery.

The rest of the leftover funding should be retained for consultation, implementation and legal review, should council decide to go down a specific route, Jamie’s report said.

Housing policy was under review by the coalition Government, with an announcement on any proposed changes due next month, prior to the May budget meeting. Any changes would be incorporated into the council’s review.

It would be the first council housing review since 2015. Previous reviews focused on housing infrastructure and potential development opportunities.

The council’s new 12-unit complex on George St would soon be completed, which Jamie said had been “challenging” due to increased construction costs and supply chain issues.

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ on Air.

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