Affordable housing matters to Kapiti

16 Feb 2024, 5:00 PM

Access to suitable and affordable housing is pivotal to one of Kāpiti Coast District Council’s core long-term goals – a resilient community that feels safe and connected and has support for basic needs.

A warm safe home is something many take for granted but, like other parts of Aotearoa New Zealand and the world, we’re facing an unprecedented housing shortage.

The housing shortage is causing stress for many people. It’s not just about homelessness, although that is certainly the experience of some in our community. Rather, we don’t always have the right housing in the right places for peoples’ individual needs.

A lack of options means people are increasingly trapped in unsuitable accommodation. It skews the whole housing system: we see large families living in tiny motel rooms or transitional housing, while elderly people rattle around in their former family home, unable to downsize in their familiar neighbourhoods near friends and family.

Housing problems have a domino effect, causing or compounding other stresses on people, like paying essential bills, accessing educational or work opportunities, and poor mental and/or physical health.

It’s all interconnected, but housing is often the first domino to fall.

It affects our identity, wellbeing, and security, and contributes to issues that can span generations.

In 2022, Council published a report giving a comprehensive picture of the state of housing need in our district and asked in our Long-term Plan if we should take a bigger role in housing. The answer was a clear ‘yes’.

Medium density housing in Ōtaki with hills in the background and native fauna in the foreground.

This view was reinforced when we consulted on our 2022 housing strategy. As a result, we’ve been working on strengthening productive partnerships with iwi, central government, the private sector, community housing providers and the community.

Our progress

We’ve made progress over the past two years, such as:

  • partnering with Ngā Hapū o Ōtaki, landowners, and developers to successfully access a $29.3 million government contribution to roading and water infrastructure to support housing needs in Ōtaki;
  • starting work on setting up an affordable housing trust to provide more affordable rental and ownership units in the district;
  • reviewing our older persons housing portfolio in readiness for engaging with you soon through the Long-term Plan on how we can provide a better service and more homes for older people in need;
  • supporting providers to establish additional transitional housing services in our district; and
  • improving our ability to help to respond to homelessness in the district in partnership with others.

Official statistics on the number of people waiting for social housing don’t necessarily provide a complete picture of the true need out in our community. Community and personal wellbeing rely on getting housing right, and this remains a priority for Council.

We’re consulting on a dedicated provider for older persons’ housing

Council provides some accommodation for eligible older people in need of affordable housing, with 118 units in 10 locations across Kāpiti. But the need increasingly outstrips supply and we have long wait lists.

Anecdotally, we know many people in need don’t bother applying as they think they have little chance of getting in.

We’ve been reviewing how we can do better in this space, starting with understanding the current situation. We found existing Council housing for older people has a range of limitations:

  • Some tenants may have complex needs that require specialist help but we’re not set up or funded to provide social, emotional, and physical support services.
  • Our existing housing isn’t suitable for full wheelchair access and
  • Our complexes may not be in the best location for access to shops, medical centres, and government services.

To build more affordable housing for older people we need access to subsidised capital and rental assistance, but councils aren’t eligible for central government’s income-related rental subsidy.

Instead, ratepayers subsidise our service, with Council rents set at 30 percent of our tenants’ income. This covers 55–80 percent of the operating cost of the portfolio.

We don’t see this as financially sustainable so we’ve been working closely with our tenants, community housing providers, and special interest groups to explore how we can meet our objective of delivering more and better housing for older people.

The review has suggested changes to our operating model may hold the key, so councillors have decided to consult with the community as part of the Long-term Plan consultation in March and April. We’ll provide more details on the options before then.

Read more about our older persons housing review 

An example of older persons' housing – a small one level weatherboard home with a front deck

Council’s doing more in housing

Council’s role in housing has primarily been to build and service the roads, pipes, and community facilities needed to support housing. We’ve always had a planning and regulatory role, and we own and manage 118 older persons’ housing units at 10 locations across the district.

We got clear direction from our community to do more to respond to the housing crisis when we consulted on the 2021 Long-term Plan and 2022 housing strategy, and our 2023 age-friendly approach identifies housing as one of the key things we need to foster healthy and active ageing.

We know there is no silver bullet; there needs to be focus across several fronts, so Council’s role is multifaceted. We’re doing more to:

  • make it easy (as a regulator and service provider)
  • share the load (by partnering with others) and
  • advocate on behalf of our district (including for central government support and funding).

Read more about Council’s role in housing.

A group of senior residents laughing together behind a row of mailboxes.

Older people most affected by housing need

Research has shown older people are amongst those most likely to be affected by a housing need, and we know Kāpiti has a high and growing proportion of people over 65 years of age (26 percent compared to 16 percent nationally).

Older people who can’t afford to buy into a retirement village are affected by the high cost of rentals, a shortage of smaller accessible units, and lack of secure tenancies.

In Kāpiti home ownership rates are declining, and an increasing number of people aged 65+ are starting to rent rather than own their home.

Research also indicates the largest growth in renters over the next 30 years will be aged 65+. The portion of Kāpiti renters aged 65+ is predicted to increase by 104% (1,820 households) over 30 years.

We have a plan to address this. We’ll be consulting with you as part of the Long-term Plan on some options for improving the operating model for older persons housing.

A colourful painted fence in a residential street in Kāpiti

Affordable housing trust could help

Housing need is complex, and not solely the responsibility of one organisation or sector.

A key action out of our 2022 housing strategy was to look at how we improve our partnerships to help more people access affordable housing in our district.

Setting up an independent ‘affordable housing entity’ soon emerged as one of our councillors’ priorities for the first year of the term. Council plans to confirm the final structure and membership in early 2024.

The entity could also become an option for managing our older persons housing portfolio, if it was decided that the portfolio should be transferred to a community housing provider.

Council will hear a report on the affordable housing trust at its 29 February meeting.

Tune in online or read the report when the agenda is published.