22 Apr 2024

Pensioner housing unit sale: 'There's so much more they could have done'

7:48 am on 22 April 2024

Pensioners who own units in a council-run affordable housing scheme that's up for sale in Auckland say tensions have flared since they were barred from voicing their concerns at a council meeting.

There are 14 of the pensioner villages across the region, and more than half of the 150 units are now vacant because Auckland Council stopped on-selling the flats more than two years' ago - one village is completely empty.

The retirees own their units, but said they felt ignored and excluded from negotiations to find another operator to run the affordable housing scheme.

The scheme began in the 1970s and allows the council to buy back the flats and on-sell them at 80 percent of the market value.

Lorraine Moon.

Lorraine Moon. Photo: RNZ / Nick Monro

Lorraine Moon owns a unit in Sandringham and was angry she and other homeowners were refused permission to speak at a council meeting.

"Browned off, totally browned off because we have a right, we own these properties - that's what's forgotten in this," she said.

"We've invested our money, we pay our rates, all of us do, and now we've got all of these empty units. What a waste.

"I'm disappointed really, very disappointed. There's so much more they could have done and done better."

The council's response said their request broke standing orders because a decision had already been made to sell the council's share in the scheme.

"A speaker may not use the time allocated for public input to speak about a matter that has already been considered and decided," a council governance advisor said in an email.

The Own-Your-Own-Units scheme began in the 1970s.

The Own-Your-Own-Units scheme began in the 1970s. Photo: RNZ / Nick Monro

That was a year ago and Moon said since then meetings to update homeowners have been heated and shouty - and an independent facilitator has been brought in.

"I think when people don't know what's going to happen and they're not properly informed about what's happening then they get worried, then they get upset, then they get anxious. And that's when the shouting starts," Moon said.

"You want to know what the hell's going on."

Council organisation Eke Panuku is overseeing the sale of council's share in the scheme to another operator and recently informed homeowners negotiations with a potential buyer had fallen through.

The scheme allows the council to buy back the flats and on-sell them at 80 percent of the market value.

The scheme allows the council to buy back the flats and on-sell them at 80 percent of the market value. Photo: RNZ / Nick Monro

Eke Panuku spokesperson Marian Webb said they were keeping homeowners informed.

"Since the start of this process, we have engaged with homeowners in a variety of ways including multiple in-person meetings, hand-delivered letters, phone calls and emails," she said.

"When we first met with homeowners, we asked how they would prefer to be informed of updates on the sales process, and the feedback was that letters were the preferred option."

Webb said Eke Panuku asked an independent facilitator to run meetings because it did not have a relationship with the homeowners.

"Our engagement with homeowners has been very constructive. Of course, we realise that not every homeowner is happy with council's decision."

Terry Hegarty

Terry Hegarty. Photo: RNZ / Nick Monro

Terry Hegarty owns a unit in Onehunga and said he no longer trusted council or Eke Panuku.

"They're out to make money, they're out to sell for the council, that's their job, they're land agents more or less. They've been so quiet about what's happening and so elusive, it's hard to trust them."

His neighbour Suzanne Marbrook said they needed more information but it was not forthcoming.

"Eke Panuku got on the highground really, from day one. They then declared that it was commercially sensitive, so we were not told anything."

Suzanne Marbrook

Suzanne Marbrook Photo: RNZ / Nick Monro

Grey Power North Shore spokesperson Trish Deans is in contact with affected homeowners in Belmont and Takapuna, where many units in the two villages were vacant.

She said they felt like they were on the backfoot, like homeowners in the 12 other villages across Auckland.

"Primarily they're older women and they're women who went into those schemes because they didn't have a substantial income or a substantial amount but they could pay for the 80 percent of the property. So they've never had lawyers in this arrangement."

Deans said the homeowners felt like they were up against a slick organisation and deserved a say about who will take over the scheme they owned their units under.

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