Elderly and disabled homeless in Tauranga to get forever home in new complex

Elderly and disabled people have been sleeping in cars, portacoms and couches as the housing crisis forces them into homelessness with nothing in their price range.

But now, 46 of them have somewhere to call home at Whare Manaaki.

The Tauranga Community Housing Trust has added the 42-unit Bethlehem complex — three years in the making — to its portfolio.

It was named and blessed by Ngati Kahu.

The trust will manage the property, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development funded it and Soho Group Limited was the developer.

The ministry would fund an estimated $36.75 million over 25 years.

It is made up of one- and two-bedroom units, which will permanently house people aged 55 and over, and those with a physical disability or chronic illness, who were on the public housing register.

There will be four couples, and the rest of the occupants will be singles.

The development has been praised for addressing a “critical” need but one social worker said it was “a drop in a puddle of what’s needed”.

There are 1053 people on the housing register in Tauranga and the Western Bay of Plenty, with 82 per cent of the demand being for one- and two-bedroom housing.

Of these, 1014 are considered to have a “severe and persistent” housing need that must be addressed immediately.

Trust general manager Jacqui Ferrel said every tenant had a story of housing hardship, with some moving in from portacoms, cars and couch surfing.

Seven of the tenants were rehoused after the Tauranga City Council pensioner units were sold for redevelopment and several others were from the Bay of Plenty District Health Board single units, which had been demolished.

Other tenants were from emergency and transitional housing and some were of Ngati Kahu descent.

Tenants’ income came mainly from superannuation, sickness benefit, or invalids benefit, which was not enough to cover the market rent.

They would all pay 25 per cent of their income to stay at the complex.

The median weekly rent for one- to two-bedroom properties in the Tauranga area in March was $530, up 10 per cent year-on-year according to Trade Me’s latest figures.

Most tenants had access to social support and the trust would help those who did not have support in place, Ferrel said.

She said Whare Manaaki was a “significant” milestone in the supply of community housing in the city, “especially at a time when we have lost so many small units”.

She said there was a “critical” shortage of suitable dwellings for singles, older people and those with disabilities.

“We are proud to have achieved building density that still provides privacy, healthy homes, warmth, safety and affordable living for older people and people with disabilities.”

The complex has mobility scooter charging stations and storage, elevators, solar power generation, and a high standard of insulation, heating and noise insulation.

It was close to local shopping, parks, reserves and health services and has good public transport links.

Ferrel said Soho Group was a “strong … resilient and determined” partner, and having them on board to achieve the trust’s goal was “absolute gold”.

She said the developer understood the trust’s values and the specific profile of tenant and was genuine about meeting the needs and outcomes the trust wanted to achieve from the housing.

“Housing, and especially housing of this scale is a long-term game,” she said.

“I am excited about the future homes we will develop together and the people we will house.”

The trust’s next project would be 48 apartments, all one and two bedrooms, at 19 Tebbs Lane which will be complete in early 2024, designed for the elderly and people with mobility needs.

It’s been approved by the ministry for funding and achieved resource consent by the city and regional councils.

The trust was also in the early concept stage of two smaller seniors housing projects in Te Puke which had not yet been approved for funding or consenting.

SociaLink general manager Liz Davies said the city was in “dire need” of smaller dwellings and most of the housing stock was not accessible to people with disabilities.

“Over 50 per cent of the local population are one- to two-member households, yet 90 per cent of housing are three-or-more-bedroomed houses.”

There were also people with disabilities that weren’t obvious, like mental illnesses, who formed a large part of the hidden or less visible homeless, she said.

Tē Tuinga Whānau Support Services social worker team leader Scotty Harvey said it was a “fantastic” start to tackling the “massive” shortage of housing for single people and those with disabilities.

“It’s literally a drop in a puddle of what’s needed, but it’s a great start.”

Harvey said single people could only go into backpackers for emergency accommodation, with a few exceptions for people with “really” bad health and mental health issues.

Tauranga Budget Advisory Services manager Shirley McCombe said developments like this were “essential” given the “huge” housing need faced by the “vulnerable” clients.

“It is so difficult to find one- or two-bedroom accommodation and many are unable to share with others.”

She said the development was ideally placed, purpose-built, affordable and there was an office on-site to support tenants.

Soho Group Limited managing director Sam Wallace said it looked forward to working with the trust and HUD on future projects.

The company was specifically set up to deliver medium-density public housing across regional New Zealand.

A Ministry of Housing and Urban Development spokeswoman said providers like TCHT played an integral role in delivering public housing with its strong community connections and expertise.

This development supports the Government’s commitment to delivering 18,000 public and transitional housing places by 2024.

Early 2020: TCHT started working with the developer, Soho
September 2020: The project was approved for funding
May 5, 2022: Code of Compliance was obtained
May 6, 2022: The complex was blessed by Ngati Kahu
May 16, 2022: Tenants start moving in over the next three weeks

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