Hous­ing trust trust­wor­thy?

The Press - - News - Joel Ine­son

A Christchurch so­cial hous­ing provider has been billing the tax­payer – and ten­ants – more than it should by claim­ing dated, unin­su­lated flats are ‘‘A grade’’.

The O¯ tau­tahi Com­mu­nity Hous­ing Trust (OCHT), the or­gan­i­sa­tion that man­ages the Christchurch City Coun­cil’s 2400 so­cial hous­ing flats, re­ceives more than $73,000 a week in Govern­ment fund­ing from the Min­istry of So­cial De­vel­op­ment, cov­er­ing rent sub­si­dies for 480 ten­ants.

The coun­try’s so­cial hous­ing reg­u­la­tor, the Com­mu­nity Hous­ing Reg­u­la­tory Author­ity, has raised con­cerns about whether OCHT is ‘‘trust­wor­thy’’ after in­ves­ti­gat­ing a com­plaint from a cou­ple the Ten­ancy Tri­bunal found were be­ing charged $50 a week more than they should.

Kere Cook­son-Ua and Tracy Col­lyer paid $300 a week rent for their 38 square me­tre, unin­su­lated and ‘‘some­what dated’’ unit. That tran­spired to be the full mar­ket value, de­spite OCHT’s hand­book say­ing the most they should pay is 70 per cent of mar­ket value (OCHT has since re­moved this para­graph, claim­ing mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tion).

The tri­bunal found the full mar­ket value should have been rated at $250, mean­ing the cou­ple should pay $175 – and the author­ity agreed. Now, fig­ures re­leased to The Press un­der the Of­fi­cial In­for­ma­tion Act show at least 12 other units at the Mau­rice Carter Courts com­plex in Sprey­don have been over-val­ued; mean­ing both the ten­ants and min­istry are pay­ing the trust too much.

They show OCHT claimed fund­ing from the min­istry based on desk­top val­u­a­tions from Knight Frank that said mar­ket rate for an ‘‘A-grade’’ sin­gle bed­room flat was $294 a week.

By com­par­i­son, an ‘‘A+’’ flat (val­ued at $307 a week) should be one built after the earth­quakes, which would re­quire dou­ble glaz­ing and in­su­la­tion.

The tri­bunal ef­fec­tively found Cook­son-Ua and Col­lyer’s unit had a ‘‘B’’ to ‘‘C’’ grade value.

Knight Frank did not phys­i­cally as­sess the flats be­cause OCHT did not ask it to. The firm notes in a re­port the as­sess­ment was not ‘‘un­der­taken in ac­cor­dance with our pro­fes­sional body’s re­quire­ments’’.

OCHT has ap­pealed the tri­bunal de­ci­sion, which the author­ity found was ‘‘at odds’’ with the trust’s pur­pose to be a good so­cial land­lord.

Com­mu­nity hous­ing providers are ex­pected to ‘‘be trust­wor­thy, fair and con­sis­tent in deal­ing with ten­ants; pro­vide path­ways to hous­ing in­de­pen­dence where ap­pro­pri­ate; and pro­vide easy meth­ods of com­mu­ni­ca­tion with ten­ants’’.

The author­ity also found OCHT failed to com­ply with rel­e­vant leg­is­la­tion and was not ‘‘trans­par­ent and re­spon­sive’’.

The author­ity found Col­lyer and Cook­son-Ua’s ten­ancy man­ager acted ‘‘cor­dially’’ and showed gen­uine con­cern for their well­be­ing.

OCHT se­nior hous­ing ad­viser Bob Hardie said the trust was re­view­ing the author­ity’s re­port and had al­ready im­ple­mented some of its find­ings.

JOSEPH JOHN­SON/ STUFF

Kere Cook­son-Ua and Tracy Col­lyer are await­ing re­pay­ment of rent after the Otau­tahi Com­mu­nity Hous­ing Trust was found to have over­charged them. The or­der has been stayed after the trust ap­pealed the de­ci­sion.

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