Thursday, 26 November 2020

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Efforts to secure more pensioner housing in Whitianga stepped up

With a waiting list of 36 people in need of accommodation, efforts are being stepped up by the Mercury Bay Community Fund (MBCF) to secure more pensioner housing in Whitianga.

The MBCF, a charitable trust which already owns and administers nine pensioner units in Kenneth Avenue, has identified a section of Thames-Coromandel District Council-owned land at the School Road Reserve as a potential site for development and has begun canvassing support from elected officials.

In both a written letter and an in-person appeal to the Mercury Bay Community Board at a meeting last Wednesday, trust chair, Alison Henry, highlighted a serious and growing need within the community and asked for the board members’ support in finding solutions. “The challenge is to timely facilitate the developments necessary to enable adequate housing and support services for our elderly population,” she said. “The Thames-Coromandel District’s population growth over the past 10 years was driven by the age group 65 years and older, which has grown from 23 per cent in 2009 to 32 per cent in 2019. Over the next 10 years, the remaining baby boomer cohort will take this age group to 40 per cent in 2029.

“The growth in our ageing population clearly demonstrates that we must be planning for further development of pensioner housing in our area.”

The trust’s nine units in Kenneth Avenue are fully tenanted. Alison said all the tenants were on very low incomes and could not otherwise afford to house themselves. She went on to highlight the suitability of the School Road location. “The land must be available for long term lease and the site needs to be flat, she said. “Most of the residents use mobility scooters, so it is essential the site is close to services such as supermarkets and medical facilities.”

MBCF secretary, John Stephenson, also spoke at the meeting and emphasised that any development would be cost free for council, with the trust meeting all statutory regulation and building costs.

The MBCF estimates it would need to use around 20 per cent of the 5,900m² site, but did not confirm at this stage how many units it would like to create. A small portion of the property is currently leased to the Whitianga Art Group and the site is zoned recreation reserve.

The trust is aiming to have the School Road Reserve identified as a future location for pensioner housing within the Mercury Bay Reserve Management Plan which is currently under review and due to be released for public consultation shortly. The draft version of the plan refers to the location as underutilised and having very little aesthetic appeal.

“The MBCF will make a submission on the draft plan for the possible use of the site for pensioner housing and we request support from the Community Board in that regard,” Mrs Henry said.

Caption - Mercury Bay Community Fund chair, Alison Henry, at the School Road Reserve in Whitianga, where it’s proposed some pensioner housing can be developed.

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