Napier Councillor Maxine Boag

The Napier City Council has had to go back to the drawing board on our community housing, even though we only made a decision on its future two years ago. Lots has changed since then and financially we are feeling the strain, as a council and as a community. What has not changed is our commitment to providing homes for older people.

Even though we are revisiting the conversation about our housing portfolio – which is made up of over 300 homes for retired people and about 70 social housing units – we know we want to retain our retirement housing. Possibly, we could even increase it. 

For older people, and I am a pensioner myself, having a home that is safe, warm, dry and secure is extremely important. Perhaps it is most important. I know too that as we put housing back on the table, tenants in our retirement housing will feel unsettled, perhaps insecure and concerned about whether they will have somewhere to live. 

I want to reassure all of them that they will. It is one of the core principles in our decision making: We will honour our current tenants and make sure they have a home. 

I understand how important our villages are to our retired tenants. They feel very connected to each other, they provide each other with support and friendship, which minimises those feelings of isolation often linked to older age.

In making this decision on the future of our housing stock, we are not walking away from providing homes for seniors. Those in our retirement units live independently, they look after themselves well, they support each other. They tell me that what we provide is ‘perfect’ for their needs.

They may not have the assets or finances they would need to access other types of housing; they don’t have the ability to move into ‘retirement homes’ or to pay market rentals, but they are valuable members of our community.

I do think our current retirement villages are overdue a refurb, that is a real need, our tenants though love their homes, they feel safe and they live independently.

Providing for older people is a growing need in our community, and in communities across the country. I am very proud that our city is able to provide this essential service, where other cities and regions cannot. Last year Napier became an accredited Age Friendly city, and the principles we have adopted with respect to our retirement housing reflect our commitment to being responsive to the needs of older people. I am also glad that our council is committed to providing retirement housing in the future, including exploring how best to increase it.

That is the key difference between where we are now and where we were two years ago. In 2022, we put everything on the table. Now, we have identified the principles that are most important to us in our decision making:

  1. Honour our current tenants and make sure they have a home;
  2. Put as little financial pressure as possible on our community and on our tenants;
  3. Move away from social housing over time;
  4. Keep, and potentially increase, our retirement housing;
  5. Invest in our retirement housing making sure it is healthy for our tenants. 

This week we have told our tenants that we need to relook at the future of our housing stock for the economic wellbeing of our whole community. We have also told them that any decision will take significant time to put into practice. And we’ve detailed the values that are more important than the money. I hope they take comfort and reassurance from that.

In some cultures, older people are revered. Too often, as an older person you don’t feel valued though. In Napier, our council has put a stake in the ground. We’ve made a commitment that says, “As a council and as a city we care about our seniors”. And that’s not going to change.

The next step in this is to hear from our community and I encourage everyone to make a submission when community engagement opens on 25 March.


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