The impact Covid-19 has had on people’s lives has been far reaching – but how are we doing now, really?
That is a question the Safer Waitaki housing taskforce is asking in a new survey to get a handle on housing and wellbeing issues in the Waitaki district.
Safer Waitaki co-ordinator Helen Algar and Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher are urging residents to participate in the survey to help inform local decision-making.
“It is very important for us to have good data on the housing standards available across the Waitaki district,” Mr Kircher said.
“We can use it to prove where there are needs and where central government assistance is required. It also helps the council and non-government organisations focus our attention to ensure we are dealing with the areas that most need attention.
“That may mean rejigging our community housing supply, amending the district plan to make it easier to build certain types of housing in certain areas, or perhaps that we need to increase support for insulation in older homes.
“All of these things help us make sure that Waitaki is a better place to live.”
The Waitaki district was not always visible “in that bigger national picture”, Mrs Algar said.
“So it’s really up to us to identify the key issues that affect our community and then look at how we can work together to resolve them,” she said.
The survey was developed by Sophia Leon de la Barra, with input from other researchers and the Safer Waitaki housing taskforce. It asks about living conditions, affordability and availability of housing in the district, discrimination and various other questions.
It also takes into consideration employment challenges and wellbeing issues which have arisen as an effect of Covid-19.
“Although it’s a housing survey, it’s also a wellbeing survey because we’re looking at access and affordability, what sort of things people would like or need in that housing space,” Mrs Algar said.
There was a lot of anecdotal commentary about a broad range of housing issues in the district, and the Safer Waitaki housing taskforce, formed last year, was already doing a lot of work in that area, she said.
“If we know what our need is, and what is highest priority for people in housing, then we can work to get that sorted,” she said.
One section of the survey was dedicated to health and discrimination.
Waitaki Newcomers Network and Migrant Support co-ordinator Christine Dorsey said she had received reports of housing discrimination against migrants, especially in the district’s rental market.
“We have noticed discrimination, certainly in terms of rentals and I think because there’s been tight availability of rentals in the past, people have been able to choose which tenants they would have and that’s where you may see some of that discrimination come in,” she said.
“People have these ingrained perceptions of how different cultures may be in a house, how they may look after it.
“It’s really important that we have open conversations and we have really good education, which is certainly what we aim to do through our migrants group.”
The survey can be filled out online. Hard copies are available at Waitaki District Council offices, Waitaki district libraries and at the Oamaru Mail office.