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Ashburton mayor Neil Brown hands over council unit keys to Jackie Girvan of the Ashburton Housing and Support Trust. Marking the occasion were (from left) trust members Matt Marshall and Neil Donaldson, council CEO Hamish Riach and councillors Carolyn Cameron and Diane Rawlinson.

Handing over a big bunch of keys has officially started a community housing project in Ashburton that will help older people into affordable rental homes.

Mayor Neil Brown today handed the keys to eight elderly persons housing units on Mona Square to Jackie Girvan, of the Ashburton Housing and Support Trust.

The council units will be demolished and 17 new ones built as part of a special project between the two organisations.

A tall fence will go up soon around the four double units and sheds and demolition is likely in the new year. Construction could be under way by the middle of the year, if builders are available.

The trust has a long-term hope of its first tenant moving in in 12 months; nine people are already wanting homes in the new complex.

Council property officer Michelle Hydes said council took over the units in 1982 from Housing New Zealand and staff had been more than just landlords over the past 40 years.

They had cultivated relationships with residents, kept an eye on their social and health needs and arranged help discreetly if needed.

It was a sad day when the eight were moved into other council units.

Mr Brown said the old units were no longer suitable and did not meet insulation or heating requirements under the Residential Tenancies Act.

Partnering with the Ashburton Housing and Support Trust for a new development had been the perfect solution, he said. Council has leased the land to the trust for 50 years and the trust will build, own and manage the new units and be responsible for selecting tenants.

Concept plans have been drawn for 17 units, in blocks of two or three, with a central carpark.

Five units will be built initially.

The housing trust, which trades as Haven Housing, bought nine villas at Cameron Courts retirement village in May 2018 and rents them to people over 60 not able to afford their own home or pay market rent.

It has been looking to grow its housing stocks.

Mrs Girvan said Mona Square was a perfect site for elderly persons housing. β€˜β€˜It is handy to the new supermarket, doctors and town, and it has three road frontages and green space.’’

The partnership might be a blueprint for the future as council is having a wider discussion about its obligations and responsibilities in the social housing department.

Council provides about 100 elderly persons housing units and currently has 23 people on a waiting list – 15 want single units and eight want doubles.

Trust member Neil Donaldson said statistics showed some older people, who had never owned their own homes, were struggling to find rental houses.

They could not afford market rental of between $280-350 a week.

Rents charged by the housing trust are below market level but higher than council has charged. The trust also provides a wraparound service, including a registered nurse and someone to do tasks like washing the windows.

The housing trust was formed in 2018 and is funded through Presbyterian Support USI, Mackenzie Charitable Foundation, Community Trust of Mid and South Canterbury, Trevor Wilson Charitable Trust, and a large private donor.

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