23 Feb 2016

Christchurch City Council has completed the first key step in setting up a charitable trust that is proposed to take over management of its social housing service in the second half of this year.

Seven trustees have been confirmed for the new Otautahi Community Housing Trust, which is made up of three Council trustees (Deputy Mayor Vicki Buck and Councillors Andrew Turner and Paul Lonsdale), and four independent trustees (Alex Skinner, Pam Sharpe, Lloyd Mander and Stephen Phillips).

Under the new structure, the Council proposes to keep full ownership of its approximately 2,270 open social housing units and land, while leasing the portfolio to the Otautahi Community Housing Trust to manage.

The trust would be responsible for tenancy management, rent-setting and the day-to-day maintenance of the units, while major repairs, renewals and the development of new social housing would remain the Council's domain.

Deputy Mayor Buck says the new trust would play a key role in financially securing the Council's social housing service.

"With access to funding and subsidies not available to the Council, the trust would help to ensure a stable future for tenants while acting as a catalyst for the building of new housing units in the city," she says.

"Each of the independent trustees brings considerable knowledge and experience to the table, along with a shared commitment to strengthening and growing the social housing service into the future. 

“Our social housing has never been subsidised by rates, and that will remain the case," she adds.

"As a charitable trust, any surplus money would be reinvested back into social housing, to improve the service provided to tenants and the wider community."

Trust Chair Alex Skinner says he is thrilled to be part of an initiative to further improve social housing in Christchurch.

"The new structure means we would be working hand-in-hand with other housing providers and social agencies to strengthen the services currently provided to those in our city who need affordable housing the most," he says.

"The Council has a proud history of providing social housing in Christchurch that dates back to 1938. The trust is now tasked with taking this legacy forward and continuing to work with the Council and the community to build on it."

If there are no changes to the proposal following consultation with Council staff, the trust will begin the next steps of registering with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment as an incorporated trust, and then with the Charities Commission as a charity.

The trust will also begin the process of appointing a CEO and seeking registration as a Community Housing Provider (CHP) with the Government. CHP registration would allow the trust to enter into a contract with the Ministry of Social Development to house people from its waiting-list and receive the associated Income-Related Rent Subsidy.

The Council will then work through the handover process, including the transferral of tenancy agreements and communicating further details about the change to tenants and partner organisations.