by Greta Yeoman
Two new apartments owned by the Victoria Trust are expected to be completed by the end of next month.
The trust, which provides accommodation for Timaru residents with mental health issues, is building two new units on its Parkside property, to replace the current old weatherboard flats on-site, manager Brent Morrow said.
Once the new flats are inhabited, the trust hoped to sell and shift the current structure off the site, and then build a third flat in its place.
“[It is] a big project.”
At a recent Timaru District Council meeting, the trust was given $15,000 towards the project, along with a $70,000 community development loan.
The project is expected to cost about $450,000 in total.
Mr Morrow hoped the new flats would be habitable by late July.
The organisation has 25 flats in Timaru, 22 of which are directly owned by the trust.
The South Canterbury District Health Board helps fund the trust to provide subsidised accommodation, power and landline phone services for the tenants, who have to be referred to the trust through the health board’s mental health services at Kensington.
Mr Morrow said the trust planned to keep the number of flats capped at 25 but would spend any future funding on upgrading the properties currently owned or managed by the organisation.
“Rather than extending our property portfolio, [we would rather] improve the quality of them.”
While the weatherboard flats in Princes St had provided a home for the tenants, they were often cold in winter, Mr Morrow said.
Rather than extending our property portfolio, [we would rather] improve the quality of them.
– Brent Morrow
This was why the decision had been made to upgrade them with entirely new apartments.
He said that while the trust had applied for a range of grants to cover the eventual construction of the third apartment on the site, he expected it would still go ahead, even if the funding did not happen immediately.
“[There is a] good commitment to make this happen.”
Mr Morrow said the district council had been “very supportive” of Victoria Trust’s work over the years, as had the Community Trust of Mid and South Canterbury.
He said many patients with high-level mental health needs often struggled to find accommodation, particularly if they were unable to afford it.
This had left many of the tenants living in tricky situations with family, paying for substandard accommodation or sleeping rough.