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Group wants to future-proof housing

A newly formed Wairarapa Housing Strategy Group that includes local organisations and local and central government representatives has committed to working collaboratively to ensure there are sufficient safe, warm, dry, and affordable homes in the region in the medium to long term.

The group’s genesis was a February 28 meeting of those with an interest in housing in Wairarapa.

“We had 40 people sitting around the table,” Trust House chief executive John Prendergast – who organised the meeting – told the Times-Age.

In addition to Trust House, there were representatives from all three Wairarapa councils, Ngāti Kahungunu, Rangitāne [Tu mai Ra Investments, Rangitāne o Wairarapa], Pasifika O Wairarapa Trust, Kāinga Ora – Homes and Communities, Ministry of Social Development, Regional Public Service Director for Greater Wellington, Abbeyfield New Zealand, Kim’s Way, The Salvation Army, Masterton Trust Lands Trust, Wairarapa electorate MP Mike Butterick, Labour list MP Kieran McAnulty, Green list MP Celia Wade-Brown, Community Housing Aotearoa, and the New Zealand Property Investors Federation.

“And there was agreement at that meeting that a shared, collaboratively developed housing strategy for the Wairarapa is an important and good thing to do, that Trust House is the organisation that’s best placed to lead that – and we’re up for that – and that a working group be formed to progress the development of that strategy,” Prendergast said.

The working group had its first meeting on May 23, just two days after Sir Bill English delivered his scathing review of Kāinga Ora.

As Prendergast noted, one of the report’s key recommendations was to devolve more decision-making around housing to the local level, something he views as key.

“I’ve seen these sort of place-based collaborative initiatives work before in other areas and in other sectors,” he said.

“They are really powerful ways of working because local communities know what the local issues are.”

Those issues were identified in a recently completed Wairarapa Housing Needs Assessment, commissioned by Rangitāne Tu Mai Ra Investments – Wairarapa is short of homes to meet the needs of significant projected population growth and demand for smaller homes as the region’s demographics change.

“For example, a lot of Wairarapa accommodation is three- or four-bedroom houses, but the future demand is increasingly for smaller homes,” Prendergast said.

“A growing number of people are arriving at retirement and don’t own their own homes. They are lifetime renters. There needs to be a stock of housing to meet that demand that isn’t there now.”

With a place-based strategy tailored to Wairarapa now underway, the region is well-placed to engage with government as it develops and implements its housing strategy, he said.

“We need government input, at times, for funding or policy direction or decisions, but it’s best that the impetus comes from within the region – local solutions to local problems, harnessing government resource and support, where it’s available and possible, and trying to influence government policy and government support.

“And we think, as a local collaboration, we’ll have more ability to do that than individual organisations.”

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