Food and shelter, our most basic survival needs from our most primitive beginnings.

Lack of shelter – the ‘housing issue’ – has been top of mind across New Zealand in recent years, a shameful political football at the national level.

It has been top of mind in Hawke’s Bay for sure – homelessness, permanent motel living, waiting lists, overcrowding, unhealthy homes, dearth of rentals, unaffordability of first homes.

No locality can do much about the ‘macro-issues’ that affect housing availability – interest rates, construction costs, tax incentives, demographic trends, etc.

But that shouldn’t deter our local councils – with their open-ended mandate under the Local Government Act – from looking after the well-being of their constituents. To do the best they can to provide shelter for those most in need.

Shelter. What a loaded word.

At the most basic level, protection – from the elements for those otherwise living on the street or in cars.

But also, a haven – providing healthful living conditions, the stable environment children must have to learn and thrive psychologically, personal safety (hopefully), personal and family privacy, mental peace of mind.

In a former life, the fundraising firm where I toiled was the national fundraiser of US-launched Habitat for Humanity. Over and over I saw the life-changing impact of putting a roof over a family.

And so I greatly admire and appreciate the huge commitment made and the record of accomplishment achieved by the Hastings District Council with its full range of housing programmes, especially for the needy. Illustrated this past week by 18 new homes in Flaxmere passing over to whānau – a grandad raising six grandchildren, a solo mum with two kids, a mum and dad with four children who also care for an elderly parent, a man living alone. Until this week all of them living in emergency or transitional accommodation.

This is just one instalment against a funded commitment (leveraging central government $$) to build 300 social homes in the 2020-2024 window, 108 that have been built and 117 under construction. Nearly 50 more will be delivered by Council partners on land currently owned by HDC.

The combined total on the Social Housing Register awaiting housing in Hawke’s Bay as at 31 December 2021 was 1662 applicants: Hastings-720, Napier-792, Wairoa-84, CHB-66. Across all of New Zealand only Auckland City and Christchurch had more applicants on their register than our region. 

And that’s just one piece of the local housing challenge. The Hastings Housing Strategy projects a requirement for construction of approximately 2,500 new dwellings to address the backlog in new homes by 2025. And housing for the non-wealthy elderly, a fast-growing segment in Hastings (and all of Hawke’s Bay) is another critical problem that will intensify.

The Hastings Housing Strategy includes a comprehensive mix of public housing, affordable housing, papakāinga and additional transitional housing to be accomplished through an impressive array of partnerships with government and Māori entities. It reaches also to accommodations for seasonal employees and to the skills training needed to sustain local housing construction.

Unlike most councils’ strategies sitting on bookshelves, this Housing Strategy appears to be one that is showing actual results. Life-changing results.

BayBuzz has never been shy about criticising the Hastings (or any) Council. Read our ongoing analyses of the ‘3 Waters’ controversy as a reminder. 

However in this case, praise is deserved. There’s still heaps more to do, but the Hastings District Council has got it right on housing … and it’s walking the talk. 

We join the 18 families in new homes who are applauding this week as their lives have been immensely changed.

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