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Empty police houses could help ease the housing shortage burden

Sharon Williams wants to see two empty police houses in Shannon turned into much-needed housing for the community.

Warwick Smith/Stuff

Sharon Williams wants to see two empty police houses in Shannon turned into much-needed housing for the community.

A housing advocate in a small Horowhenua town believes police-owned houses are sitting empty across the country could help ease the housing shortage.

According to figures revealed under the Official Information Act, the New Zealand Police owns 256 residential properties around New Zealand and 217 are occupied.

Central District has the most police houses with 62, while Bay of Plenty has 35, Northland 30, Southern 29, Eastern 26, Waikato 24, Canterbury 19, Tasman 14, Counties Manukau five, Wellington five, Waitematā four and Auckland three.

There are 39 unoccupied houses, and of those, 32 have been unoccupied for more than a year and 11 are in the disposal process.

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Eleven vacant houses are in Central and two of those, historically used for local police officers to live in, are on Julyan St in Shannon.

Sharon Williams, the community innovation navigator for Hāpai Te Hapori in Shannon, has been advocating for the empty homes to be turned into much-needed housing for the community.

“It doesn’t really matter if they go to another Crown entity or are sold off or bought by a private property developer.

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“We’ve got a shortage of housing. We know in Shannon we’ve got families leaving because there’s no rentals for them. They’re not wanting to leave the community, not wanting to leave the school.

“It’s just so sad how [the houses have been] sitting there for years upon years and nothing has been done all this time.”

The two houses are derelict after being empty for years. Police would not confirm how long the houses have been empty.

Both houses have been damaged inside with holes in the walls and smashed windows. Outside both are overgrown and neglected.

The two houses have been neglected over the years, with damage inside and are overgrown outside.

Warwick Smith/Stuff

The two houses have been neglected over the years, with damage inside and are overgrown outside.

Williams said people were desperate for rentals and to buy houses in the town. She believed a number of one-or-two-bedroom houses could be built on the site, which would free up bigger houses around Shannon for families.

“As a community we just want to see them fit for purpose.”

She believed this also applied to the other empty police houses.

A police spokesperson said Kāinga Ora was offered surplus Crown property as part of the divestment process and had looked at these two properties, “but they were neither zoned nor suitable for the intensive type of development Kāinga Ora would have wanted”.

Sharon Williams believes the site could have multiple houses built on it.

Warwick Smith/Stuff

Sharon Williams believes the site could have multiple houses built on it.

“The houses are in a poor state of repair and are not able to be occupied without significant investment.

“The divestment process of the property is currently paused to conclude a search for the previous owners (or successors) so the property can be offered back under the Public Works Act. The process should be concluded within the next two months.”

Kāinga Ora’s regional director for Taranaki, Whanganui and Manawatū, Graeme Broderick, also said the houses were not suitable for the necessary type of development.

“We’ve continued to look at other options in the Manawatū-Horowhenua area and have a number of builds under way, and plans to build elsewhere in the regions.”

Windows have been broken and holes smashed in the walls at the two houses.

Warwick Smith/Stuff

Windows have been broken and holes smashed in the walls at the two houses.

The police’s deputy chief executive of corporate operations Ruth Currie said in a statement police houses may be vacant for a number of reasons, including being in the process of being divested because the house was no longer required, or it was being refurbished.

“The relevant district commander will advise the police national property office if a residential house is no longer required for operational reasons.”

If a house is then deemed surplus to requirements, it is disposed of according to the Public Works Act.

The police owned 268 houses 10 years ago and 256 five years ago.

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