Govt moves to relieve Christchurch housing shortage

10:55 pm on 24 April 2012

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee says new Government plans will help relieve housing shortages in Christchurch.

Mr Brownlee says new money to speed up repairs on Housing New Zealand properties and Christchurch City Council rentals will be a significant boost to those who are struggling after devastating quakes in the region.

The minister says the new initiatives will relieve pressure on the rental market by bringing new stock into the system.

Mr Brownlee says at present, there are 800 properties available for rent in Canterbury and the situation cannot be called a crisis. However, he admits finding suitable accommodation is becoming harder.

On Tuesday, Housing New Zealand closed a tender to speed up the repair of more than 600 houses, while a $21 million payout from the Earthquake Commission to the Christchurch City Council will allow repairs to begin on 280 of its rental properties.

The Department of Building and Housing will build another 20 units at a temporary village in the eastern suburb of New Brighton, bringing the total number to 83 by mid-July.

The Wider Earthquake Communities Action Network says the boost to social housing is welcome, but will not help most people.

It says the Government needs to put deadlines on when insurance companies need to pay out, as the delay is stopping many residents from moving on.

No rent controls

Gerry Brownlee says the Government will not consider introducing rent controls to ease pressure on low-income households in Christchurch.

A new report from the Department of Building and Housing shows the poor are bearing the biggest brunt of rent increases in the quake-hit South Island city.

Some community housing advocates are calling for the Government to introduce rent control legislation, but Mr Brownlee says such measures will not help.

"Firstly, they're very, very hard to enforce, very hard to police. And then, of course, you do also mean that the people who've got a place get some advantage, but you don't necessarily increase the stock of accommodation available for people to rent. And that is, really, the difficulty that some people are facing at the moment."

Christchurch resident Jeremy Pulley says he has been forced to live in his car, as he can't find affordable accommodation.

Mr Pulley has been sleeping in his vehicle for six weeks and says on what he earns as a pizza delivery man, he can't pay what landlords are asking.

He says he sees other people sleeping in their cars and expects the problem will get worse as out-of-town workers arrive to help with the rebuilding of Christchurch.