Bid to reduce rent hikes ‘political’

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RICHARD.DAVISON@nullcluthaleader.co.nz

TENSIONS rose during the Clutha District Council meeting in Balclutha last Thursday, as Mayor Bryan Cadogan responded to an accusation of ‘‘electioneering’’.

West Otago ward councillor Lloyd McCall levelled the accusation during an impassioned debate about proposed rent increases for the council’s community housing units.

Local government elections take place in October this year.

During debate on an amendment proposed by Mr Cadogan, to reduce increases from an average of 22% to 5%, Cr McCall said the council should stick with its long›term plan decision.

‘‘If you make a decision, you’ve got to stick with the decision. Otherwise, you need to go back and consult with the community again. This is not the time for electioneering,’’ he said. Following a pause, Mr Cadogan responded. ‘‘This is not electioneering — I take umbrage at that.’’ ‘‘It’s political,’’ Cr McCall replied. The amendment was rejected by nine votes to four. Earlier, Mr Cadogan had spoken passionately about the burden a 22% increase would place on tenants.

Applied uniformly, that would amount to a$27 increase per unit per week, to between $135 and $164.

The increases were proposed as a cost recovery measure, to offset an annual shortfall of about $590,000 for the 97 units, at present paid from council reserves.

However, Mr Cadogan questioned whether that was fair given the shortfall was a result of longstanding deficits in maintenance and ageing housing stock. “We’re playing catch›up, and I don’t think it’s fair to pass those costs on to the vulnerable,’’ he said. Pensions had increased about $20 a week, making $27 a week significant for many of the tenants. ‘‘With social housing, we have a social responsibility.’’

Following the defeat of MrCadogan’s amendment, Cr Alison Ludemann moved for a proportional increase to rents, placing them from $132 to $167 a week.

This was approved by nine votes to four.

Tenants will be informed of a date for the increases shortly.

‘This is not electioneering — I take umbrage at that.’

— Bryan Cadogan