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Christchurch City Council Media Release 19 April 2002

Government right to want a say in council housing sales - Christchurch City Council says

Council housing is a partnership between local and central government and the Government is right to make it difficult for councils to sell public housing, says Christchurch Mayor Garry Moore, speaking after the City Council considered the matter this week.

"We agree that there needs to be some very big flaming hoops councils need to jump through if they want to sell housing," Mr Moore says. "Housing has always been a partnership between central and local government involving central government money, and that gives Wellington some rights to have a say in this."

Mr Moore’s comments follow a Government move to change its upcoming Local Government Bill to make housing a strategic asset. The change, which is to be immediate, will mean a council wanting to rid itself of housing would need to use a special consultative process before doing so.

On 18 April Local Government New Zealand’s chief executive, Peter Winder, dubbed the move an unwelcome example of the Government completely undermining the process of local democracy.

Christchurch City Council this week said it would normally prefer partnerships with Government reflected in legal agreements, rather than laws. It agreed that public housing is a, “key asset for achieving the shared goals of good social outcomes in our community and that Central Government has been a partner in development’.

Mr Moore says Christchurch is proud of its record with social housing and believes that, in this case, the Government has every right to interfere in cases where council decide to get out of the housing business.

"When a council talks about selling its housing, they're really selling the heritage of previous generations," he says. "The rents of previous generations have built up our  city's equity in this.

"It's an area where Wellington has seen that local government has a role to play and over the years councils were given grants and low-interest loans to create housing funds," he says. "In Christchurch our portfolio’s well managed and growing. Our public housing comes at no charge to the ratepayer. It pays for itself.”

Christchurch City Housing continues to work in close partnership with central government and other social agencies in the provision of public housing.

In 1938 Christchurch City Council became the first local authority housing provider in New Zealand, building 16 units in Sydenham.

Today, City Housing is the country's second biggest landlord, with more than 2650 units in 113 complexes around the city. Its rents -- ranging from $45 to $175 a week -- average at 20 per cent below market rates. City Housing is run as a separate unit, is self-funded, and does not use rates funds to operate.

City Housing’s vision is to, “contribute to the community’s social well being by ensuring safe, accessible and affordable housing is available to people on low incomes, including elderly persons, and people with disabilities”.

City Housing historically provided mainly bedsit/studio units or one-bedroom flats, and its tenants were predominantly elderly residences. A review in 1996 resulted in housing being provided for a broader range of people and the construction of more flexible accommodation, with more two to four-bedroom units.

Note: Garry Moore is an LGNZ council member and chairs its Metro Mayors grou

For more information: Call Mayor Garry Moore on 03 941 8558.

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