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Massive housing upgrade swings into action

Tuesday 26 August
Massive housing upgrade swings into action
Te Ara Hou flats in Newtown will be the first property to receive a makeover under the joint venture between the Government and Wellington City Council that will upgrade the Council’s rental housing stock over the next 20 years.
A Deed of Grant signed today by Housing Minister Maryan Street, Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast and Housing New Zealand chairman Pat Snedden means the first payments of the $220 million contribution from the Government are now available – and construction work can begin.
Housing New Zealand Corporation will allocate the funding annually as well as providing the Council with ongoing assistance and advice drawing on its expertise as the country's largest provider of social housing.
The Council will also contribute money generated from rent from its 2300 housing units to supplement this grant over the 20 year period.
Mayor Prendergast says 12 housing sites have been earmarked for upgrade in the first 10 years with the rest (28 complexes and 126 stand-alone houses) to be completed in the second 10 years. 
“These first housing properties are generally our largest sites - housing about 65 per cent of our tenants. The majority of these buildings will require earthquake-strengthening work.”
However the Council and the Government – recognising the essential role the rental housing plays in providing affordable accommodation to Wellingtonians – are also taking the opportunity to reconfigure and upgrade the sites to meet 21st-century social needs and standards of living. 
Work also includes improving insulation, ventilation, upgrading kitchens and bathrooms and changing the shape and size of some units.  “Basically we are upgrading the Council’s housing stock to be safe, secure and of a good standard for modern living.”
Mayor Prendergast says being “first off the rank” should be fantastic news for the 184 residents at Te Ara Hou – who were officially told the news yesterday. “They will have the opportunity to get involved in decisions being made about the complex from design through to social and communal spaces before construction work begins in July 2009.”
Te Ara Hou – a 33-year-old complex – will be used as a ‘prototype’ for the long-term upgrade programme. “We want to start with one of our medium-sized, low-rise, sites first so that we can get our processes and methods in order before we tackle our bigger complexes,” says Mayor Prendergast.                                    
Members of the Council’s Housing Upgrade team will work closely with each of the residents to ensure that rehousing during construction is as stress-free as possible before they move into their upgraded homes. 
“As you can image the logistics of a project like this are immense and our number-one priority is minimising the disruption for our 4000-plus residents while we get on with improving their homes.” 
A rehousing strategy is being developed to ensure residents are either rehoused on their ‘home’ site or in other Council housing complexes in the same neighbourhood or suburb.
Mayor Prendergast says it is important to remember that this project is much more than just about bricks and mortar.  “We are also looking at improving the social aspects of life in our housing complexes through the Community Action Programme which is an integral part of the upgrade project. 
“Community Action is all about fostering better community relations with an emphasis on socially improving the lives of our residents with what suits them best as a community.  This could include better community facilities like communal gardens, organising social activities, introducing exercise classes or perhaps an improved play area for children.
“Regardless of whether or not construction work is starting in the near future we’ll be rolling out our Community Action Programme in every housing complex in the next two years.”

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