20 Sep 2017

'We talk about the housing crisis ... what about the people crisis?'

11:54 am on 20 September 2017

Family helping their 86-year-old father raise money to fix his leaky home say they feel left to to fend for themselves.

Christchurch construction.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Twins John and Graham Sanderson, 61, and their younger brother Nigel, have each had to raise big loans to pay for repairing damage to their father's home.

They learned about the scale of the problem two months ago.

"He's a very proud man and he doesn't want to confront these issues at 86 years of age when he's had a tough working life," said Graham Sanderson of his father.

"He thought he was going to be okay and he also didn't want to put his family through this. He said he just didn't expect to ever have to do this in his life."

The Sandersons' widowed father, who used to run a silverware manufacturing firm, has just moved out of his townhouse, along with 16 other homeowners at Kaihu Street, Birkenhead, so repairs can start.

The estimate to reclad Mr Sanderson's townhouse has tripled in three years, from $90,000 to $270,000.

The twins had each raised $60,000 against their homes to help their father.

"We couldn't raise any more money now," said Graham Sanderson. "I've just turned 61 and we are effectively starting again because of the same problem that we suffered 12 years ago."

He and his wife, Sue, lost more than $400,000 on their own leaky home in Birkenhead.

Mr Sanderson said his father was unwell and stressed.

"He's constantly saying 'where am I going to live, where am I going to live'."

Fortunately, his neighbours had made "an absolutely brilliant offer" that he could live with them for the year or more it would take to do the repairs.

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John Sanderson Photo: Supplied

John Sanderson recently moved to Thames to escape Auckland's high living costs, and felt the added pressure of being some distance away from his father.

He said the entire family felt isolated over their father's leaky home.

"We're alone. We talk about the housing crisis in New Zealand... but what about the people crisis?

"What about the people that have been left to fend for themselves?"

He said his father had been left "not really knowing where he's going" even with his family being able to help.

His father was not eligible for any state assistance due to his home being more than 10 years old and falling outside the limit to make a claim against the government or council.

The government's financial assistance package for leaky homes, which allows eligible homeowners to make a claim for up to half of the repair bill, expired in July last year.

The government has contributed $73 million to fix leaky homes so far, with another $22m approved. It is also considering extending a loan guarantee scheme to help those in exceptional cases.

Some 4000 repairs have been funded.

However, it was estimated in 2010 that 10 times that number of homes were leaky, and the repair bill could run to anywhere from $11 billion to $24bn.

Advocates for people with leaky homes told RNZ that more and more cases were emerging of ineligible homeowners also being turned away by banks.

Sue Sanderson went with her father-in-law, and others with leaky homes, to a recent meeting with the Northcote MP, National's Jonathan Coleman.

"The government and their councils have all just stepped away... this is not something that's going away any time soon. It's got to be taken in hand and treated as seriously as it is."

Graham Sanderson said he had always voted National but the meeting with Dr Coleman was "abysmal".

Dr Coleman said in a statement he listened closely to their concerns, and passed them on to Building Minister Nick Smith.

"I have sympathy for the distress they are experiencing."

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