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State houses all filled up

Kāinga Ora was in the firing line recently over reports showing that 5 per cent of its housing stock is currently vacant, but empty houses aren’t a problem in Wairarapa.

An Official Information Act request revealed that 3906 [about 5 per cent] of New Zealand’s public housing stock was vacant.

Kāinga Ora, regional director for Wellington Vicki McLaren, told the Times-Age that all 18 properties on Masterton’s Iorns St North and three on Michael St were occupied.

She confirmed that five of six recently completed homes on Market St were occupied, with the final customer signing their agreement shortly.

The latest local development on George St had 11 houses completed.

McLaren said three homes had been assigned, and the remaining customers were due to sign agreements shortly.

“The timing of the homes becoming available just before Christmas and New Year, as well as some customers not being ready to move when the homes became available, has caused a little delay in our customers moving into their new homes,” McLaren said.

“We will continue to work alongside these families to ensure they can move into their new homes at a time that works best for them.”

Long wait almost over

A twelfth accessible house due for completion in March has been a long time coming – about seven years – for one local family.

Robert Lendrum cares full-time for his partner Kirsty Searle, who suffered a traumatic brain injury 20 years ago.

He and his family have moved from rental to rental while waiting for a suitable home.

The worst of these involved a house in Carterton with very little heating, thick mud tracking the pathway to the house, and a bathroom which Searle, who uses a wheelchair, could not access.

ACC supports housing modifications needed to support a client with a covered injury, and its solution to this was to place a portable bathroom in the driveway, only accessible by traversing across the driveway in the middle of winter.

Although they are in a different rental now, which has its issues … “Its like a castle in comparison” … Lendrum said they are looking forward to when they can move into the finished, accessible property prepared by Kāinga Ora.

“It can’t come soon enough,” Lendrum said.

“We’re just lucky we’ve got this far. There are a lot of people who haven’t.”

He said it had been a stressful process, and while he was grateful for the support and knowledge that their house would be finished soon, he felt like the communication could be improved.

“We need to know when to give notice to our current place. We don’t know what our rent will be at the new place,” Lendrum said. “We’re getting on all right, but just a bit anxious to know what’s happening so we can prepare, especially as it’s an expensive time of year.

“Like our kids are going back to school, which has been $1000 already this week on books and uniforms.”

He said Searle doesn’t qualify for ACC cover because she was 17 years old and straight out of school when she had her accident.

Kāinga Ora’s McLaren said modifications in the house are managed and funded by ACC.

An occupational therapist assigned by ACC assesses the housing needs and makes recommendations for alterations. However, Lendrum said their current therapist lives in Christchurch, so their interactions have been limited.

ACC deputy chief executive for service delivery Amanda Malu said she was glad to hear that the new home was nearing completion.

“We’ve given support to Kirsty for her injury-related needs over many years, and we continue to have a role in making sure she and Robert have suitable housing,” Malu said.

“We’re committed to working with Kirsty, Kāinga Ora, and Enable NZ to make sure her new home meets her specific injury-related needs.”

“We have also engaged a social worker to make sure Kirsty’s current living conditions are suitable.”

Malu said a recent assessment that the family’s temporary house required a ramp, but they had declined this option.

Lendrum told the Times-Age that they had not seen the point in installing a ramp two months after they moved into the property and when they were likely to move out again soon.

McLaren said that the state house being designed for Lendrum and his family needed to be designed to meet current needs, with the ability to adapt as needs change over time.

“It’s about homes that allow them to have whānau and friends visit and support them to be part of their wider community without barriers,” McLaren said.

“It also means building properties for a particular customer cohort that may include bespoke features or provide access to support services or that can be managed by a supported housing provider.”

To modify the home destined for Lendrum and Searle, McLaren said Kāinga Ora had been working with ACC and the developer since November 2022.

Modifications to the house included increasing the number of bedrooms, widening the floor area, ensuring the features in the bathroom were accessible, adding a walk-in wardrobe, installing a variable height bench in the kitchen, modifying the placement of cupboards and adding a covered transport area outside the property.

McLaren said additional time had been required to include all modifications in the final design plans before the building consent was submitted.

“Our construction team is currently working on completing the GIB and plastering inside, with painting and landscaping scheduled to start in February.”

The house is scheduled to be completed at the end of March, at which point Lendrum, Searle and their family can move in.

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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