Our chance to im­prove so­cial hous­ing

Hamilton Press - - CONVERSATIONS - PE­TER HUMPHREYS

Lo­cal au­thor­i­ties are not el­i­gi­ble for Cen­tral Gov­ern­ment so­cial hous­ing fund­ing so there is a chal­lenge for our lo­cal coun­cils to fund any form of so­cial hous­ing.

Some don’t see so­cial hous­ing as their core busi­ness. Some, like Christchurch City Coun­cil, which is re­ally keen to sup­port so­cial hous­ing and keen to ex­pand their cur­rent stock, have been a lit­tle cre­ative in the way that they will ac­cess the so­cial hous­ing fund­ing.

About $50 mil­lion worth of Christchurch City Coun­cil-owned so­cial hous­ing as­sets have been trans­ferred to The Otau­tahi Com­mu­nity Hous­ing Trust. By do­ing this the so­cial hous­ing is pro­tected and the Otau­tahi Com­mu­nity Hous­ing Trust will now be able to ap­ply for cen­tral gov­ern­ment fund­ing. The ten­ants will now be able to ap­ply for in­come re­lated rents as this was not an op­tion when Christchurch City Coun­cil owned the prop­er­ties.

What is the Welling­ton City Coun­cil do­ing about so­cial hous­ing? Welling­ton City Coun­cil own around 2200 units at over 40 lo­ca­tions across Welling­ton city with a mar­ket val­u­a­tion of $353 mil­lion (2012). Th­ese units are a mix of large apart­ment com­plexes, smaller blocks of flats and stand alone houses. Welling­ton City Coun­cil also man­ages 26 units for Porirua City Coun­cil.

Hamil­ton City Coun­cil in 2015 agreed to sell the city’s re­main­ing pen­sioner hous­ing stock for $23.5 mil­lion to so­cial hous­ing provider Ac­ces­si­ble Prop­er­ties. Cur­rent deputy mayor Martin Gal­lagher at the time said: ‘‘To­day is all about the fi­nal, I think, nail in the cof­fin of 60 years or so of proud his­tory, of great may­ors. None of th­ese coun­cils had on their agenda at all to sell pen­sioner hous­ing, so to­day is quite his­toric’’. Coun­cil­lor Dave Macpher­son added: ‘‘I pre­dict a fu­ture coun­cil, if we sell ev­ery­thing in the pen­sioner hous­ing area, will be get­ting back in that game and it will cost us a lot more to do that than to main­tain and im­prove our cur­rent stock’’.

We have sold this last batch of prop­er­ties and there have been some pos­i­tives. Firstly the hous­ing did not go to a pri­vate de­vel­oper like some of the first units that were sold, the new ten­ants that go into the te­nan­cies of Ac­ces­si­ble Prop­er­ties will be able to ob­tain in­come re­lated rents and the most im­por­tant point of all for me we still have the much needed so­cial hous­ing that the city needs.

In March 2019 Ac­ces­si­ble Prop­er­ties will be pay­ing the bal­ance of the sale price ($18.8m plus GST) to the Hamil­ton City Coun­cil. This money could go into the cof­fers or it could also be an in­vest­ment into the much needed so­cial hous­ing that Hamil­ton needs. The coun­cil may not have to get back ‘‘into the game’’. The coun­cil could very eas­ily al­low Ac­ces­si­ble Prop­er­ties to keep the money with the un­der­stand­ing that they in­vest the money in more so­cial hous­ing. There is also the op­tion of giv­ing the money to an or­gan­i­sa­tion like Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity which gives peo­ple a hand up to fill their ba­sic needs for hous­ing.

We can all see the cur­rent detri­men­tal ef­fect that home­less­ness is hav­ing on in­di­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies; we can see the cur­rent ef­fect home­less­ness is hav­ing on our chil­dren. What we re­ally have yet to see is the detri­men­tal ef­fect that home­less­ness is go­ing to have on the city of Hamil­ton in the long term. We have an op­por­tu­nity to do some­thing about so­cial hous­ing here in Hamil­ton with the div­i­dends of the 60-year in­vest­ment that Hamil­ton did put into so­cial hous­ing.

Pe­ter Humphreys is man­ager of the Hamil­ton Chris­tian Night­shel­ter.

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