CHA calls for mind shift from government in housing debate

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Community Housing Aotearoa (CHA) director Scott Figenshow says the Salvation Army’s announcement that it is no longer looking at purchasing state houses is no surprise.

“Many in the sector have been saying that the only way they can make the sums work is if they are transferred at close to nil value. This will provide equity to the sector from which it can leverage regeneration, and deliver better outcomes for tenants and families,” Mr Figenshow says.

“Our members are very concerned about the families they work with, and are only interested if they can do a better job than Housing New Zealand.

“At the moment the sums simply don’t stack up. Recently the Government confirmed $1.2 billion of deferred maintenance on the state housing stock. Why would a provider want to purchase a liability?”

“There is enough information now for the Government to adjust its financial approach to one based on delivering good quality homes and strong, healthy communities,” he says.

CHA’s members have been saying for some time that they are interested in delivering improved outcomes for families and communities.

“What the sector sees is it growing from roughly 5000 homes to say 60,000 homes — and as a sector, it would be of equivalent size to Housing New Zealand. That would double the amount of social and affordable housing across New Zealand.

“The community housing sector would be delivering across the housing continuum — everything from emergency housing to secure tenure, affordable rental with wrap around services, and on to rent-to-buy and shared home ownership.”

In order to achieve that, the Government needs to partner with the community housing sector, and that means investing in the sector.

“In Housing New Zealand’s Statement of Intent, it will pay $112 million in income tax and $108 million in dividend to the Crown in July. The Government says it’s not about the money, so why can’t that $220 million be invested into growth of the community housing sector each year for the next 20 years?” he says.

“We need a partnership with government based on delivering better outcomes for families and communities. That is the dividend we should be measuring, not a financial dividend to the crown. We need certainty of a 10 to 20-year pipeline of resources — including for support services — that we can match in order for partnerships to work.”

Mr Figenshow says Budget 2014 did not provide any funding to increase affordable or social housing supply. It introduced $10 million for the year to start in July this year — $10 million a year reduced from $47 million a year.

He says what is required is a cross party agreement on housing, and a 20-year strategy to back it up.

“We need to see a community housing sector of equal size to Housing New Zealand — not a reshuffling of the current houses.”