30 Oct 2014

Pensioners protest housing plan

4:47 pm on 30 October 2014

A mock-coffin symbolising the possible demise of council-owned pensioner housing units in Hamilton was carried into the council building today as part of protest action.

Protesters march through the streets of Hamilton.

Protesters marching through the streets of Hamilton. Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

About 60 people gathered in the centre of the city to hear speeches before putting photos of the council-owned units into the casket and carrying it into the council chamber.

The Hamilton City Council owns just over 344 pensioner units across the city. It is proposing selling them all off, but a final decision is not to be made until later in the year. The plan is to offer them for sale to social housing providers first.

Karen Morrison-Hume, who heads the local Mission for Anglican Action, said she opposed to any suggestion that other agencies buy up the housing if the council pulled out.

"The reality is though that that is millions of dollars is coming out of the social sector. Millions of dollars that ought to in fact be invested in new stock, not purchasing and privatising the council's stock."

Ms Morrison-Hume said the sale would amount to the privatisation of council assets and both pensioners and she believed others needing social housing would be the losers.

Another protest leader, Methodist Minister, Susan Thompson argued the council should continue to own and maintain pensioner housing.

"I think it's a social responsibility which they hold on behalf of the whole community," she said.

Bob Martin, one of the 365 elderly people living in pensioner housing in Hamilton, agreed.

" I think it's a matter of greed, there's no need to sell them, they are self sufficient. It's been spin doctored to make it look like they are costing money by spinning figures around." he said.

Mr martin has lived in his unit for 12 years and said the future was very worrying for all those living in pensioner units.

"It's like being told you are just a bit of old garbage now and you aren't a citizen the same as you were'" he said.

Garden Place, Hamilton.

Garden Place, Hamilton. Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

The Mayor of Hamilton, Julie Hardaker gave an assurance that if the units were sold, no pensioners would be thrown out of their homes.

" I am quite concerned that there has been a lot of scare-mongering going on in the community about the proposal the council has put out. It's a really good debate that we are having at the moment and I have said that we have got not intention of any of our tenants being put out of their houses, " she said.

Pensioner housing in Hamilton cost the council just over $2 million in the last financial year. Tenants pay 62 percent of market rent, with the ratepayers picking up the rest.

Submissions on the council's pensioner housing plan are due to close tomorrow and a public hearing is to be held next month before any decision is made.

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