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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Housing crisis looming for Christchurch

Housing crisis looming for Christchurch

updated 18:26
Published: 11:37AM Sunday March 20, 2011 Source: ONE News

As Christchurch people move back to the city after last month's quake, finding enough houses before winter sets in is a major challenge.

The government is spending $39 million on campervans and modular homes to ease the accommodation crisis and the Prime Minister has suggested a new government department may be created solely to deal with the rebuilding of Christchurch.

John Key told TV ONE's Q+A programme that "temporary housing is a big issue" and central government will take a lead role in rebuilding the devastated city.

"I don't think any council around New Zealand has the capability and the breadth of bureaucratic support to do the sorts of things that we need to do in Christchurch over the next 2,3,5 years," he said.

The government is in the final stages of creating a special group to work on the restructure.

"It'll likely see the minister in charge, Gerry Brownlee, have a responsibility and have a department that can support him," Key said.

"There's got to be a co-ordination of all those resources that go into Christchurch. Now we've got to work our way through that and obviously work very closely with the people of Christchurch," he said.

Key said it is vital the rebuild is dealt with properly.

"Ultimately it's not possible for Christchurch to do what a normal city does over the course of its lifetime in a very short and truncated period of time," he said.

He hinted that the group would be based in Christchurch.

Careful planning needed

Housing Minister Phil Heatley said they are "trying to do is get ahead of the game" so if people require it, it's right there.

Army personnel are helping check the safety of campervans being brought into the city from all round the South Island to the A and P showgrounds where a camp ground for about 150 campervans is being established.

Colonel Derek Baxter said they are given the vehicles the once over so to ensure they are all up to scratch and safe to go.

"We've got to be careful about spacing, think about fire systems, work with council on the number of toilets, the number of showers," said Baxter.

And up to 5000 modular homes may be needed before winter.

If government help is accepted residents will have to pay rent but Heatley said all they want to do is recover some costs.

"Government is not in the business of charging people in this situation...very very high rents."

Insurance companies and WINZ are expected to help.

He said he believes people will be comfortable and warm in the facilities which will have all services.

The campervans should be ready later this week and some of the temporary homes in time for winter.

"We know there will be a lot of people displaced from their housing and we know we need to provide housing for a workforce that's likely to migrate down to Christchurch as well," he said.

The 6.3 magnitude that struck Canterbury on February 22 left as many as 5000 homes inhabitable.

Key said a request for a proposal has gone out to all of the companies across New Zealand that produce modular homes.

"We're looking for up to about 2500 homes which will likely be put on public land.

"That housing will be used to temporarily accommodate people while they are out of their homes," he said.

Key said it would be months, not years, until the temporary housing is available.

"So we're looking at firstly the capability, we're also looking at whether we might want to be in the position where we put some modular type home on a property where the land isn't damaged but the house is and it needs some work.

He said "plenty more" campervans are on standby.

"So they're an immediate response for someone who's had to move out of their home and where there isn't some rental accommodation they can take up," he said.

Key also announced the possible creation of new government department to deal with the Christchurch rebuild.

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