Dorothy Hutton with her dog Oska outside the house she’s been asked to vacate. PHOTO/GRACE PRIOR
Pensioner homeless after rental sells
Mayor says housing is a basic human right
78-year-old Dorothy [Dot] Hutton has one month to vacate her property. But with a major housing shortage across the region, she has nowhere to go. GRACE PRIOR reports.
Dot Hutton has been living in her Newland Pl flat in Masterton for about seven years. When she first moved in, it was under the ownership of Trust House.
In 2013, Trust House sold the lots to the Wairarapa Building Society, which it has just sold on to private vendors.
Hutton said, before Christmas, the new owners requested vacant possession, giving her just under a month to find somewhere to live.
She said the block of houses had been built for pensioners and should stay for that purpose.
“I’ve got no family; I have a niece in Nelson and a brother in Australia. My husband died 30 years ago. I have nowhere to go.”
Hutton has been worried sick trying to find a home for herself and her 13-year-old shih tzu Oska.
“My mobility is not the best, it’s my birthday on Sunday, and I’m 78.”
She said she had called Trust House, but said they had a two-year waitlist.
“The thought of moving is stressful; it is bad enough for anyone.”
Hutton said she didn’t know who the new owners were and that “it’s all commercially sensitive”.
“I was hoping an investor would buy it, and I could stay here, but that’s not the case. I think they want to move in and live here.”
Hutton has never owned her own home, only rented, leaving her in a sticky situation with nowhere for her and her dog Oska to go.
Hutton said she needed to move somewhere with a fence for her dog, and a spare room for her niece who visits regularly.
Wairarapa MP Kieran McAnulty said he had been trying to get Kainga Ora [previously known as Housing New Zealand Corporation] to buy the Newland Pl flats.
“We need to get Kainga Ora back to Masterton; it would help to alleviate access to affordable housing.”
McAnulty said he had been trying to help Hutton for some time.
“We can’t let this continue.”
Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson said the flat Hutton occupied was originally a Housing New Zealand Corporation pensioner flat.
In 1999, the National Government sold all Housing Corporation houses from Featherston through to Dannevirke to Trust House.
Patterson said Trust House had since sold off some of these flats.
The Newland Pl flats were in the hands of Wairarapa Building Society, which had since sold to private vendors.
In a letter to Hutton, WBS said they did not have the capacity to manage social housing.
In 2001, the Labour Government introduced an income-related rent subsidy.
“If you were in Housing Corporation houses, you’d pay no more than 25 per cent of your income for rent,” Patterson said.
As Wairarapa had no Housing Corporation houses, Wairarapa residents had not benefited from this as the rest of the country had.
From 2013 to 2014, the National Government introduced social housing reform to allow registered community housing providers to become eligible for income-related rent subsidies.
Patterson said Trust House was one of the first, if not the first, community housing provider to benefit from this.
“The government paid the difference between the rent that the tenant would pay and market rent,” Patterson said.
Unfortunately, tenants who were already housed missed out, as one of the criteria was for tenants to be previously unhoused.
Trust House was able to get quite a few tenants on to subsidies – but not all of them.
“The top priority of the government should be to house its people; it’s a basic human right,” Patterson said.
McAnulty said a major reason there were no houses available was that there is no Kainga Ora presence in the region.
“With social housing, you get the pastoral care that comes with it too,” something that needs to be provided to disadvantaged people such as Hutton, McAnulty said.
The way forward
Both Patterson and McAnulty agree the best way to alleviate the housing crisis in Wairarapa is to re-introduce Kainga Ora to the region.
McAnulty said the extreme shortage of social housing was an issue that was unique to Wairarapa.
“We’re the only district without Kainga Ora in the country.”
“There has been no Kainga Ora in Wairarapa since the National Government sold their Housing Corporation houses 20 years ago. State houses should never be sold; we need to bring them back.”
Although housing is a big issue across the country, Patterson said Wairarapa residents were unfairly disadvantaged by the National Government’s decision to sell their Housing Corporation houses.
Patterson has been mayor of Masterton since 2013 and has been lobbying for better housing ever since.
“The housing issue has been raised with the government by every council; it’s just unfair.”
Patterson aims to build more housing both for pensioners and for families.
“We have been working closely with Trust House and iwi. We will meet in February to see what we can make happen.”
Patterson wanted to see an end to Wairarapa residents living in motels as temporary housing.
“We have land and are keen to work with anyone to develop more housing.”
The council provides pensioner housing.
McAnulty said he had been talking with Megan Woods, the new minister of housing.
“The day she was sworn in, I put in a request to talk with her about Wairarapa.”
McAnulty said he had all Wairarapa mayors and Associate Housing Minister Kris Faafoi onboard to bring Kainga Ora back to Wairarapa.
Bringing Kainga Ora back didn’t mean the end of Trust House – both Patterson and McAnulty said they were happy to continue to work with the organisation.
McAnulty said his top priority was to fix the housing problem in Wairarapa, a sentiment Patterson also shared.