Community housing cull proposed

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THE Southland District Council (SDC) will have a closer look at its community housing activities after a report said its best option was for the council to simply shut the scheme down.

SDC yesterday considered the approval of a business case to identify all the issues and options for the future of community housing throughout the district.

SDC property services manager Kevin McNaught said there were 69 units in the council’s community houses, in 10 different townships.

From those, five were vacant and 78%, or 52 units, were tenanted by pensioners.

He said there were numerous “issues” associated with this activity, including affordability of managing the activity and maintaining appropriate rental rates; a lack of clarity around need and purpose for the activity; resourcing; suitability of current stock in terms of condition and location; and an increasingly regulated environment.

“Dealing with these has made the operations and future planning for this activity very challenging.”

He suggested SDC should approve the scope of a business case to explore the options and to approve an unbudgeted expenditure up to $50,000 so the project could get going.

The $50,000 cost would be allocated from the community housing reserve.

The request followed a decision made in February 2018, when councillors received a report by management consulting firm Morrison Low about the service delivery models for various activities in the community services area.

From the activities investigated, the report author chose a “preferred option” for SDC to cease to provide community housing at an agreed time, because that would “remove any risk” to council, plus would have a financial benefit.

However, the report states the matter should be subject to public consultation as the option could cause “community discontent”.

The second-choice option was a “status quo” approach which would enable SDC to continue to deliver community housing in accordance with council strategy and for SDC to maintain the service.

In 2018, councillors resolved to adopt all of the preferred options in the Morrison Low report in a staged approach, including the development of a business case.

The matter returned yesterday to SDC’s table for further consideration at its full council meeting.

The decision was unavailable at the time the Southland Express went to print.

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