Many cold, hungry, housing survey finds

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The results of a Waitaki housing and wellbeing survey are in, and they make for “sobering reading”, Safer Waitaki co-ordinator Helen Algar says.

In June, the Safer Waitaki housing taskforce surveyed residents to get a handle on housing and wellbeing issues in the district.

More than half of the 559 people who responded to the survey reported compromising their health to keep household costs down – 56% of people had put up with feeling cold, 19% had gone without fresh fruit or vegetables, and 16% had postponed trips to the doctor or gone without filling up prescriptions.

Pasifika people were much more likely to be struggling than non-Pasifika; 53.6% of Pasifika survey respondents said they did not have enough, or had only just enough, money to meet their family’s basic needs.

Nearly half of all respondents reported a problem with mould or dampness in their home.

While the survey results highlighted some real issues in the district, the data provided a new “baseline” to measure developments and improve decision-making, Mrs Algar said.

“Although it makes for sobering reading, it’s a real opportunity,” she said.

“We are really getting to understand what the issues and opportunities are.

“Now we have that information, it is a matter of looking at how we can work collaboratively.”

The survey was developed by Sophia Leon de la Barra, with input from other researchers and the Safer Waitaki housing taskforce. It asked about living conditions, the affordability and availability of housing in the district, discrimination and various other questions.

It also took into consideration employment challenges and wellbeing issues which had arisen as effects of Covid-19.

While the majority of respondents had adequate heating, insulation and ventilation, there were people who reported living in inadequate housing, with no heating or insulation. Renters were significantly more likely to have no insulation and inadequate draught protection.

A lack of emergency housing and a lack of awareness of what emergency housing was available were also highlighted.

While only one person reported not having a permanent residence, more than 5% stated they had stayed with a friend or family member because they had nowhere else to go.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said there was only one transitional housing unit available in the district at present.

“Anecdotally we knew there was problems in that area .. people needing to get out of where they are for whatever reason,” Mr Kircher said.

“There is a difficulty of where they can go to this gives evidence of that.”

The survey provided much more accurate data than what had previously been available, and could be used as a tool to lobby for government funding in target areas, he said.

“The idea with the taskforce is to build up enough evidence so we can see what the picture is and is there something we can work with central government around the issues.

“When we do see particular issues or trends, we have the ability to go to central government and say some real evidence around the situation’.”

The housing taskforce was continuing to gather information and look at areas the council could support or apply for funding for, Mr Kircher said.

Mrs Algar thanked the community for a “fantastic response” to the survey.

“This is just one part of the picture but it is a significant one.”

It would be used in conjunction with statistics from social services providers such as the Ministry of Social Development and Housing New Zealand, she said.

As there had not been a similar survey undertaken locally before, there was now a baseline from which change could be measured, and she hoped it could be updated regularly to measure development.

At a glance . . .

  • The majority of people who responded to the survey owned their own home (71.6%), while about a fifth rented (17.4%). Pasifika and Asian people were significantly more likely to rent than other ethnicities.
  • In response to a question about which services residents wanted included in their rates, 48.6% of people said they wanted recycling collection, 55.1% wanted rubbish collection and 36.6% preferred user-pays systems.
  • Two in 10 people were unable to pay their bills on time at least once.
  • On average, people spent 20% of their weekly income on their rent or mortgage.
  • The average household spent $326 a month on energy bills and wood
  • Two-thirds of Waitaki households are occupied by a sole individual (30%) or a couple (33%).The average house size was three bedrooms. Several respondents raised issues about a lack of smaller one- or two-bedroom units in the district.