The tenants of the community housing block at Wesley Village in Papanui have started to move back in after its extensive refurbishment.

The refurbishment took 16 weeks to complete and required tenants to move out while work was being done. They were all given the option of moving into the new WesleyCare Hospital with 16 of them taking up this offer. The remainder stayed with friends and family or found independent rentals.

The work completed on the housing block included painting the exterior and interior, repairing the balcony and balustrades, installing additional insulation, replacing carpet, replacing the roof and upgrading heaters and ovens. A generous donation was received from the Hyman Marks Trust that enabled thermal curtains to be installed and a grant from the Manchester Unity Welfare Trust Board will provide affordable access to the internet.

Betty Shore has been a tenant at Wesley Village for two years and says that the refurbished units are excellent and the work completed has made a huge difference. "The new paint inside and out welcomes me home and with the thermal drapes, additional insulation and new heater I'm cosy on wintry nights. I am warm and safe in my very pleasant unit", says Betty.

The Christchurch Methodist Mission (CMM) is one of the few aged care providers that provides rental accommodation for older people. Most retirement villages offer units and apartments on a license to occupy (LTO) basis which requires major capital investment and on-going service fees. However, an increasing number of older people cannot afford the asking price for LTO units and apartments so they must continue to rent.

"I feel extremely fortunate to be here", says Betty. "There is a great lack of this kind of housing in our community. It is sorely needed".

As well as providing warm, affordable and secure housing to older people without assets, CMM also provides support for tenants to feel at home in the housing community. A Community Development Worker is employed part time and helps reduce social isolation through various events and outings. If additional support is needed tenants can be referred to other CMM services. CMM's Housing Development & Tenancy Manager oversees the community housing at Wesley and ensures that maintenance problems are dealt with promptly and tenants feel safe and secure in their unit.

"I have security of tenure here and can stay as long as I want to. It's managed extremely well which makes a big difference. The staff take people for who they are and are very kind", says Betty.

There is a 'global village' feel in the housing community with 9 different nationalities represented in the 26 units. This emphasises the importance of building social connectedness amongst the tenants and having staff readily available when needed. "It's really nice to have people from a range of countries in the village", adds Betty.

CMM is committed to providing affordable housing for older people in the community now and into the future. A 2015 Salvation Army research report estimated that by 2030 about 200,000 retirement-aged people in NZ won't own a house and will be unable to afford rent. As the level of home ownership in NZ continues to fall the demand for community housing for older people such as Wesley Village will only increase in the years ahead.

Photo Caption: Khanh Huynh and Betty Shore outside one of the newly refurbished units at Wesley Village.

Khanh Betty