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State houses unwrapped in time for Christmas

On the same day that the new government announced an independent review of Kāinga Ora, the Crown housing agency managed to pull off a Christmas surprise with the unveiling of the region’s latest tranche of 11 state houses in Masterton, which are ready earlier than anticipated.

Local residents curious about the latest batch of finished state houses were invited to wander around the George St development and admire the completed new builds yesterday.

The first state-owned homes in Wairarapa since 1999 were opened to tenants the end of July on Iorns St North, and this latest addition brings the region’s current total up to 29 homes.

Kāinga Ora acquisitions manager Tony Travers said each unit is designed to fit around each other and ensure each household has enough space.

“In trying to keep with the neighbourhood, there’s a lot of work and time that’s gone into the design,” Travers said.

“You still have your distance and privacy with that separation from the other units.”

Kāinga Ora housing manager for Hutt Valley and Wairarapa Stephen Wilson agreed, noting how the style of build suits Wairarapa’s landscape.

“It’s comparatively more spacious here than some of the other places we build, and there’s more flat land,” Wilson noted.

“It’s about 23 years since we’ve had a presence here, so there’s a growing waiting list of families in need.”

The properties on George St have been built by local outfit Westwood Properties and include four two-bedroom homes and seven three-bedrooms.

Kāinga Ora regional director Vicki McLaren said the collaboration with local build partners has been a good way to support the region’s economy.

“When designing and building new homes, we have an opportunity to have a positive impact on the quality of our customer’s lives,” McLaren said.

“These new, accessible homes will reduce common barriers experienced in housing and enable our customers to live with independence and pride.”

Since the new houses had been completed earlier than expected, McLaren said some families will be able to move in before Christmas.

All the homes have a Homestar rating of six, which means the builds are warmer and dryer than if they’d just been built directly to code.

A final house on the George St development is not due for completion until early next year, due to extra design aspects that will ensure accessibility for its assigned family.

Westwood Properties has also partnered with Kāinga Ora for another state housing project in Masterton, building eight homes on High St.

These houses are likely to be completed in the middle of next year and are part of the 76 Kāinga Ora homes projected for Wairarapa as part of wider plans to increase the public housing supply.

Meanwhile, Housing Minister Chris Bishop announced yesterday that there will be an independent review – led by former Prime Minister Bill English – into Kāinga Ora’s financial situation, procurement, and asset management.

“A recent report by the Treasury and Ministry for Housing and Urban Development found that Kāinga Ora’s level of debt had grown from $2.7 billion in 2018 to $12.3 billion in June of this year,” Bishop said when making the announcement.

“Advice released last year suggests that if Kāinga Ora continues on its current trajectory, their debt would reach $28.9 billion by 2033.

“It is critical that Kāinga Ora is focused on efficiently building social houses for people in need while also delivering value for taxpayers’ money, and this review will be able to provide recommendations to ensure that these objectives are being met.”

Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age, originally hailing from Wellington. She is interested in social issues and writes about the local arts and culture scene.

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