2016 The year that ...
Ricky Houghton, 58, remembers the year hard work turned bad news into a positive and financially prosperous situation
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.