2016 The year that ...

Ricky Houghton, 58, re­mem­bers the year hard work turned bad news into a pos­i­tive and fi­nan­cially pros­per­ous sit­u­a­tion

Weekend Herald - Canvas - - LAST WORD + QUIZ -

The He Korowai Trust had been rent­ing an of­fice in Kaitaia for 15 years when we were told in 2016 that the build­ing had been sold. We were forced to go on to a mon­thto-month rental. We found our­selves home­less, just like the fam­i­lies we were try­ing to move into home own­er­ship. We had no money. The lo­cal ho­tel at the end of the street was up for a mort­gagee sale. It had been empty for four years. It was run-down and boarded up, on the verge of be­ing con­demned. It was a very scary build­ing.

But I went to Auck­land for the auc­tion. It started at $1.4 mil­lion. Then it went down and down. Fi­nally, they said: “Any of­fers?” I don’t know what made me think of the num­ber but I said: “$400,000.”

They were very an­gry, and I didn’t even have the $40,000 de­posit but I won the build­ing. I went to the trustees, mort­gaged my free­hold home in Auck­land and buy­ing that house turned out to be one of the great­est moves we ever made.

We got some com­mu­nity sup­port through loan pro­ceeds. The com­mu­nity de­ten­tion boys helped us clean it. SkyCity chipped in and gave us beds from the Grand Ho­tel. We re­fur­bished the whole build­ing and now it houses 35 home­less peo­ple with their own en suites and big beds. And it has a reg­is­tered val­u­a­tion of $12.2 mil­lion.

The same year, we were able to also do up 22 con­demned houses. We were funded for 15 but were able to do more be­cause we dis­man­tled a cou­ple of houses we were bring­ing up from Auck­land. We used the doors, win­dows and ev­ery­thing we could to make the seven ex­tra houses.

Those houses had been sched­uled to be de­mol­ished by Hous­ing New Zealand to make way for in­fill hous­ing. We saved them from be­ing de­stroyed. And that was de­spite all the pro­tes­tors out in South Auck­land hop­ping un­der the trucks that we put them on and get­ting in the way. It was silly, be­cause these houses were con­demned. It was like or­gan do­na­tion: in one room you had a fam­ily mourn­ing over a loss and in the next room there was a fam­ily full of hope.

Fam­i­lies in our com­mu­nity who had been liv­ing in cow­sheds, buses and lean-tos got a chance to have their own home. They pay $270 a week and they own it in 17 years.

Also in that same year, we were able to com­plete the lit­tle ko­hanga reo that we had at our hous­ing project. It’s now cer­ti­fied for 28 ba­bies as an early child­hood Maori lan­guage school. We were able to put 17 adults and 43 chil­dren into new homes that year. And I guess that’s what made 2016 so memorable.

The trust went from four staff to nine staff. It went from an as­set base of vir­tu­ally zero — around $350,000 — to an as­set base of just un­der $4 mil­lion. It was a fi­nan­cially pros­per­ous year for the trust. That will be be­cause of the com­mit­ment of the staff and con­tri­bu­tion by a lot of car­ing peo­ple out­side the re­gion. It could be called the year the trust up­sized.

As told to Paul Lit­tle.

RICKY HOUGHTON IS CEO OF THE HE KOROWAI TRUST AND WAS NAMED LO­CAL HERO OF THE YEAR IN THE 2018 NEW ZEALAN­DER OF THE YEAR AWARDS.

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