Anna Goldsmith is 70 years old, and has been living in social housing for 16 years. She speaks with us from her current residence in New Zealand.
Anna Goldsmith shouldn’t be here to talk to us today. Diagnosed with aggressive cancer, she was effectively told by her doctors to ensure her affairs were in order because she was unlikely to recover. Thankfully, almost 30 years later, she’s still with us.
“I’ve had it come back about three times but – yep – I’m still in remission, as far as I know. Nothing else is happening,” she says chirpily.
Social housing has been a key factor in her ability to keep cancer at bay
Anna has no doubt that social housing has been a key factor in her ability to keep cancer at bay, although her story didn’t start on such a positive note. Like most people, her experience of social housing has been one of ups and downs, good times and bad times.
“Everybody’s probably got a story to tell about how they’ve ended up in social housing. Mine is that I had cancer, I was in a Housing New Zealand house and then, when National came in [to government], they put the rents up to market rental. That’s when a lot of us got out [of social housing] and found something cheaper in the private market.”
The stress of moving around a lot wasn’t helping
“When I was renting privately, though, about four different places that I was renting got sold,” she continues. “So, in the end, I went to the council because I got sick of moving around. The council had the property first, and they helped link me up with Clarkin Road. The stress of moving around a lot wasn’t helping, so yeah, it was good to find more stable accommodation.”
While she’s quick to point out that other people have endured a lot worse, Anna has still dealt with degrees of uncertainty in the 16 or so years she’s been a resident at Clarkin Road. The council attempted – unsuccessfully – to sell the development on a couple of occasions and, with each attempt to facilitate a sale, Anna says the anxiety among residents was palpable.
“The first time they were going to sell them, one man died of a heart attack through the stress of it. A lot of elderly got sick,” she speculates.
As many people who have experienced stock transfers from a tenant perspective can attest, the inherent uncertainty during such a transition is a significant issue. The transfer of Clarkin Road was no different.
“Yeah,” agrees Anna. “The changeover from the council was pretty hard at the time because we didn’t know who was gonna buy us, and it was a bit unsettling. It was quite a big upheaval.”
The ensuing partnership that developed between tenants and their new housing provider has been a boon for everyone
Fortunately for Anna and her neighbours in the Clarkin Road community, Accessible Properties assumed responsibility for the Clarkin Road complex, and the ensuing partnership that developed between tenants and their new housing provider has been a boon for everyone. There have been some operational changes but Anna says she felt the benefits almost immediately: “Once we knew who was taking over, it was all good and we were a bit more relaxed about our futures.”
“[Accessible Properties] has done a lot for me,” she continues. “My lino had been ripped and was in very bad state when it was with the council but, when they took over, I got new carpet and lino. I didn’t even have to ask for it. Yeah, you get well looked after. We’re not pensioner housing anymore; we’re social housing.”
Property improvements aren’t the only change that Anna and her neighbours have noticed. “We’ve got a very good property manager,” she says. “Linda’s very good. You can ask her and she’ll do her best to help you with whatever you need. Recently, I had some flooding here in the home and Linda quickly got me a plumber to help out. It could have been a lot harder on me if they hadn’t acted quickly.”
With the amount of time she’s spent in social housing, Anna’s advice for housing professionals is no-nonsense: “Listen to people and what their circumstances are.”
Red tape is also something of a bugbear for her
Red tape is also something of a bugbear for her: “There’s a lot of red tape around things now. Perhaps – if somebody’s had a stroke, or an aneurysm and can’t really talk for himself or herself – we need to be a bit more flexible about that; try better to accommodate special circumstances would probably be a good thing.”
Anna is pleased to report the team at Accessible Properties plays a big role in helping to foster a positive community feel around Clarkin Road. For her part, she is as equally grateful for the environment she finds herself in, as much as having a roof over her head.
“It’s a good little community, yeah,” Anna says. “Everyone gets along and people look after each other. I just enjoy being able to help people.”