Council housing top priority for Christchurch mayoral candidate Darryll Park

5:06 pm on 18 September 2019

Christchurch mayoral candidate Darryll Park says improving council owned housing would be his top priority if elected.

The city council has come under considerable pressure to upgrade social housing after reports that tenants were living in freezing conditions. The state of the council owned housing has becoming a topic of much debate among the city's 13 mayoral candidates.

Previously, Mr Park has said that social housing was not the responsibility of local government. But after accepting an invitation to visit a block of council flats by mayoral candidate, John Minto, Mr Park changed his tune today.

John Minto (left), Lianne Dalziel and Darryll Park (right) in the RNZ studio.

Darryll Park. Photo: RNZ

He said he was not aware of the level of neglect of council owned rentals.

"We can't have people go through another winter with poor insulation. I just can't believe that people have bubble wrap [on their windows] as insulation is just unacceptable."

Mr Park walked with Mr Minto along the row of flats, taking note of the some of the work that needed to be done. The pair did not go into any of the properties nor spoke directly with any of the tenants.

Mr Park promised zero rates rise if elected, which would require the council to find $100 million in savings over a three year term. He said he would save costs by paying for "musts", not "nice to haves" and evaluating and upgrading the houses so that they were fit for purpose was a must.

Mr Park said he would not say which services he would cull, because he did not know how much it would cost to improve council owned housing until an evaluation was completed.

Tenants living in council owned social housing have been forced to put bubble wrap on their windows to keep their homes warm this winter.

Tenants living in council owned social housing have been forced to put bubble wrap on their windows to keep their homes warm this winter. Photo: RNZ / Nicholas Pointon

The incumbent mayor, Lianne Dalziel, also accepted an invitation from Mr Minto to visit the block of the flats. However, Ms Dalziel, who is seeking a third term as mayor, was only able to visit the blocks this afternoon.

Both her and Minto took time to speak to a number of the residents who came out onto the street to meet them. Many of whom spoke openly about their lives, and how they ended up in social housing.

Ms Dalziel said after speaking with some of the tenants there were a number of things that could be improved.

"People are concerned about the state of the road, the lack of street life, and, and of course, is an abandoned car down the way."

At a council meeting last Thursday, Ms Dalziel was among the councillors who voted to fast-track social housing upgrades by seeking a $10 million loan which would go toward the $16 million cost to heat, ventilate and insulate 909 council owned rentals.

However, the decision was not without its consequences. The council would now have no choice but to delay plans to replace existing units that were not up to standard by a decade.

Mr Minto criticised the council's approach, saying there were funds available to do both.

"At the time of the last election [the government set aside] $300 million for Christchurch to use as Christchurch sees fit."

Social housing in Christchurch has been the focal point of Mr Minto's mayoralty campaign. He has said he wants to take the $220 million that had been set aside for building a new stadium in Christchurch and use those funds to improving council owned rentals.