Review of Pensioner Housing Policy

Submissions closed on 28 May 2021, 05:00 PM

Council-owned flats

Whanganui District Council has reviewed the Pensioner Housing Policy.

It is proposing to trial pets at the Eugene Crotty, Walter Nash, and 22 Puriri Street complexes, create a guideline document for entry requirements and some property use restrictions, and make minor changes to the drafting and form including changing its name.

Under the current rules, residents are not allowed to keep pets in council-owned units. The proposal would allow residents to keep some pets, subject to certain restrictions. These are:

  • for the trial period at least, the resident must live at one of the three named complexes
  • residents can only keep fish, birds, or one cat each
  • a resident wanting to keep a pet must sign an agreement to be responsible for any damage caused
  • the resident must also provide the details of another person who is able to take care of the pet if the resident is not able to
  • the council may require the pet to be removed if it is causing hygiene issues, damaging the unit, or is incompatible with other residents or pets.

This trial will run for twelve months, after which the council will take on board feedback and observations, and then update the policy further as necessary.

The entry requirements and use restrictions will be moved into a guideline, and the council property team will have the ability to make minor changes to these without needing to go through a full community consultation process. The aim of this is to allow minor changes to be made to keep requirements relevant and useful for tenants, and the community.

The current proposed new name of the policy is the “Council-owned Housing Policy”. Note that this is a change to the name only, and units will still only be available to those aged 65 and older, or 60 and older if there are a lot of vacant units.


Removing the rule preventing pets

This rule prevents residents from keeping any pets while living in council-owned housing. This prevents pets from causing damage to units or creating a nuisance for other residents, but also denies residents access to the social and mental health benefits of caring for a companion animal.

Option 1

Allowing the pets trial (recommended)

Advantages Disadvantages
  • allowing residents to retain and look after pets will likely have positive impacts on their physical and mental health
  • no longer requiring elderly people to give up their pets in order to become residents will also be better for them - the Pet Care Agreement allows many aspects of care and maintenance to be managed by residents themselves, rather than by the council
  • mess and noise from pets may cause problems among complexes
  • our enforcement measures are reactive rather than proactive – if a resident is no longer able to care for their pet, or if a pet begins to cause issues, these will persist until the council is notified and able to take action
  • the allowance of pets is expected to increase costs involved with maintenance and regular monitoring of units.

Option 2

Retaining the rules against pets (status quo)

Advantages Disadvantages

A blanket ban on keeping pets is easier to enforce, preventing damage to facilities and nuisance against other residents.

  • there have been issues of residents keeping pets against the rules
  • this has led to public concern regarding allowing residents to keep pets
  • the mental health benefits of allowing residents to keep pets can be significant, as can the impacts of forcing elderly people to part with long-term pets in order to become residents.

Council-owned housing guidelines

While a policy is an effective vehicle to set out the purpose and the framework of implementation for council-owned housing for older people, the process of updating it reduces its ability to pivot based on the changing needs and circumstances of both residents and the community. It is therefore recommended that guidelines be introduced to cover the management, entry criteria, and rules around keeping pets (where applicable), with authority delegated to the property team to make minor amendments.

Option 1

Adopt the council-owned housing guideline

Advantages Disadvantages

This will allow the application criteria, resident rules, and pet rules to undergo minor changes based on new needs and circumstances.

Splitting the ruleset into two documents may make it harder to locate and follow.

Option 2

Retain the rules in a policy

Advantages Disadvantages

Keeping all the rules within one document will make it easier to locate and reduce some potential for misunderstanding.

Retaining the rules within a policy reduces their ability to make minor updates, which makes it harder to keep up with shifts in the needs of residents and the community.

General updates to the policy document

The policy requires minor updates in order to improve clarity and consistency, as well as some format changes and a change in the name of the policy.

Option 1

Adopt minor changes (recommended)

Advantages Disadvantages

The Policy would look tidier and more professional.


Option 2

Not adopting minor changes (status quo)

Advantages Disadvantages

There are no issues in operative sections and the Policy is functional in its current form.

Minor errors can leave the Policy looking untidy or unprofessional.