Christchurch’s mayor’s promise of 360 new social houses in question


A complex of 28 new social housing units in St Martins, Christchurch, have a 6 Homestar rating.

Joe Johnson/Stuff

A complex of 28 new social housing units in St Martins, Christchurch, have a 6 Homestar rating.

A promise by Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel to return social housing stock to pre-quake levels by building 360 more units before her term ends is on shaky ground.

Ōtautahi Community Housing Trust – set up by the city council to manage its portfolio of about 2200 units – was tasked with meeting that target.

But at the opening of a new complex of 28 units in St Martins on Friday, chief executive Cate Kearney told guests they would have 250 units completed by the end of next year.

“We just have to find another way of getting another 100 built, and I believe it’s got to be a partnership between local and central government that will help us build more of these homes,” she said.

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Close to 1000 people are registered for public housing in Christchurch, according to the most recent Ministry of Housing and Urban Development quarterly report from March.

That was a 16 per cent increase on the same time in the previous year.

Nationally, there are now 16,309 people on the register – up 47 per cent on the same time last year.

Ōtautahi Community Housing Trust chief executive Cate Kearney says the trust is working on filling a 100 unit shortfall of units on the mayor's target of 360 by September 2022.

Supplied

Ōtautahi Community Housing Trust chief executive Cate Kearney says the trust is working on filling a 100 unit shortfall of units on the mayor’s target of 360 by September 2022.

Asked how the organisation would meet the Dalziel’s target, Kearney said the organisation was “working on it”.

The 360 units were “just a drop in the bucket”, she said. “When we get there, there will be more needed, and even after Covid.”

The main obstacle was getting the investment capital for developments, Kearney said.

“Once we’re built, we’re fine, we can pay back loans. It’s just not an issue … it’s raising that initial money to do the development.”

Dalziel said she was still committed to the target of restoring the council’s housing to pre-quake levels.

“My colleagues have agreed to consider this target as part of the refresh of the council’s social housing strategy, which will allow the public to have a say on this target.

Lianne Dalziel says she is still committed to the target of restoring the council's housing to pre-quake levels.

John Kirk-Anderson/Stuff

Lianne Dalziel says she is still committed to the target of restoring the council’s housing to pre-quake levels.

“Regardless of the policy, OCHT are well on track to deliver the target anyway.”

Housing Minister Megan Woods, who attended the opening, said the Government was supporting community housing providers by committing to provision of the income-related rent subsidy, under which it pays the difference between market rent and 25 per cent of a tenant’s income.

JOSEPH JOHNSON/STUFF

Christchurch social housing advocate Stephen McPaike lives in one of 1219 existing council-owned units that have had a heat pump installed so far this year. (First published in May.)

Community housing organisations like OCHT provide about 20 per cent of public housing in New Zealand.

Community Housing Aoteoroa chief executive Scott Figenshow said the Government had committed $5 billion towards investment in Kainga Ora homes in this year’s budget, but was not providing capital to community providers.

The Government’s position would increase uncertainty for providers like OCHT, he said.

“National liked it when the community sector wanted to deliver, they just didn’t put the money in. Labour Governments are willing to put the money in, but only when it’s delivered by the state.

“We’re saying, if we’re going to get ahead of our housing challenges, we need to be delivering through every avenue that we can.”

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