Editorial: Is Housing a Problem in Ōtaki?

OM-logo-544pxIn last month’s issue, we commented on a buoyant housing market in Ōtaki. Prices are soaring, but there are not enough houses to buy or sell. That may be an issue for people with money to buy, but not for those without the means to buy a home in a rapidly inflating market, or at a rent they can afford.

While it is hard to pin down the stats for just Ōtaki as sometime we are included with Horowhenua and other times with Kapiti, but it seems that homelessness may also be an issue here.

Anecdotally we hear of people in doorways and cars sleeping rough, but here in the security of one’s own home it is easy to be out of touch.

Reputedly, there are 215 ‘housing units’ available in Kapiti. In the last quarter there have been 9 requests for state housing in Ōtaki, with a small number of them being priority A or B; at risk or in serious need. 8 are vacant, 1 is under repair, 2 are meth-contaminated and 4 are for sale.

Breaking it down in the Kapiti area this is what the housing picture looks like: Kapiti has 19 families on the waiting list for social housing. MSD’s purchasing intentions show they intend to maintain the current level of income-related rent subsidies in Kapiti Coast.

Since the 2014 election Kapiti has lost 3 state houses. Buying a house is equally fraught for those of limited means. House prices in Kapiti Coast have increased 6.5% or $24,706 from $378,438 in the last year. In the last census Kapiti home ownership fell by 1.1 percentage points from 75.7%.

These rates are above nationwide home ownership rates which fell 2.1 percentage points from 66.9%. Ōtaki is part of these statistics, and we are not immune to what is happening in the rest of NZ. When you add into the equation, that there is a shortage of good rental accommodation in the private sector, with properties being snapped up quickly, it’s beginning to look like a difficult life if you are poor and homeless in Ōtaki.

There is a waiting list for council’s pensioner flats which doesn’t mean people are homeless. “That is more likely to be because our pensioner houses are desirable, because the rents are lower than those in the private sector, or Housing NZ.” says Councillor Penny Gaylor.

Even so, if people are sleeping on the streets or in cars in our winter in Ōtaki or anywhere, it is not ok. It’s bad for people’s health and the community’s well being.

What can we as a community do to ensure all our residents are secure, warm and safe at night?