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Delighted . . . Mervyn Mattingly outside his new home. PHOTO: CHRIS TOBIN

by Chris Tobin

State Housing New Zealand tenant Mervyn Mattingly (72) says he is rapt with his new house – the first state house built in Timaru since 2009.

In March, the Government announced plans to build nine new state houses in Timaru and 19 in South Canterbury by the middle of the year.

Housing NZ advised Mr Mattingly, who had been on a waiting list for four years, a new home was available in Timaru.

On August 18, he shifted from Dunedin and moved into his new Andrew St, Marchwiel home, next to another newly built Housing NZ house.

“I think I was the first one. They started building in March and the neighbour’s place was built at the same time.

‘I’m rapt. It took me four years to get it. It’s a great home, mate.”

The double-glazed house has a heat pump but has been so warm Mr Mattingly, who suffers from emphysema, has not had to use it.

He said the one-bedroom house, for which he paid $214 rent a fortnight, had a good-sized lounge, bathroom-shower and there was plenty of sheltered space outside to enjoy the sun.

“I’m really impressed and I’ve got good neighbours who keep an eye on me.”

New carpet and curtains were also provided.

Housing NZ spokesman Paul Clearwater said five houses had been completed in Timaru so far this year, in Andrew, Orbell, Canada and Somerset streets.

Three others would be completed by the end of the year – two in Macdonald St, and one in Old North Rd.

Six houses have one bedroom, and three are two-bedroom homes.

As at the end of June this year, a total of 36 families and individuals were on the Ministry of Social Development’s social housing register in Timaru.

“We’re responding to increased social housing in Timaru,” Mr Clearwater said.

“We’re now in the planning stages to develop more homes in Timaru.”

Yesterday, Housing NZ had an open day for the media at another new house built in Somerset St.

When the house building plan was announced in March, Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford said it was the largest building initiative Housing NZ had undertaken outside the main centres in decades.

“If we want to reduce homelessness, we must build more state houses.

“If more state houses had been built in the past decade, we would not have the levels of homelessness we do today.”

Ruth Swale, Anglican Care social justice advocate in Timaru, said those receiving homes were just “the tip of an iceberg”.

The previous National government required criteria which meant people who should have been on a social housing waiting list could not get on it, she said.

Anglican Care social justice advocate Ruth Swale

This had changed with the Labour-led Government.

“The criteria is now what it should be and people are on the register which has blown out of all proportion.”

She did not have statistics for Timaru but was aware of 20 to 30 people in Timaru who had spoken to her who were on low incomes and could not afford rental accommodation.

“These are not seniors but could be in their 50s, living on their own with health issues and low income.”

Yesterday, the Salvation Army stated in a report Beyond Renting that it was likely the social housing waiting list in New Zealand would grow “and will easily consume Government’s modest plans for 6400 additional units by 2022.”