Community Housing Providers are critical to delivering social housing

I was at the opening of the new Salvation Army Social Housing complex called Kaitiakitanga on Chapel Road (June 3).

The complex comprises of 46 units – 10 with 1 bedroom and 36 with 2 bedrooms – which are incredibly well-designed, highly efficient and very warm.

There is no doubt we have a massive and severe need for social housing across New Zealand. We have 4000 families in emergency housing being accommodated in motels with no wrap-around services and 23,259 people on the social housing waitlist which is more than three times higher than it was in 2017.

Serious medical conditions, poverty caused by increasingly high rents, food poverty, lack of stability for schooling and employment and the stress caused by emergency housing are all major contributors.

Sadly, these are people in very desperate and challenged situations. The Salvation Army told me about a parent with terminal cancer who was living with two children in a one-bedroom motel unit and one person who was living with 12 others in a two-bedroom house. Understandably, a new, warm, dry, modern home is truly a dream come true for these families.

In my mind, this provision of social housing through a Community Housing Provider, like the Salvation Army, has some real advantages over standard state housing provided by the Crown.

The type of social housing offered by the Salvation Army sets a high bar. Not only are good quality houses built with community facilities and excellent tenant management, but most importantly they seek to foster a community and support people with chaplaincy support and a suite of services.

Powerful and targeted interventions on behalf of those with the most complex and challenged lives are needed. With the right resources at the right time in the right place, people can make positive and sustained changes that enable them to rise up and realise their potential. This is essentially what the Salvation Army’s mission to “care for people and transform lives” is all about.

The Salvation Army have also cleverly financed this development by partnering with companies like Generate Kiwisaver, who have invested in the Salvation Army Bond through the impact investing platform Community Finance.

Impact investment refers to investments made into companies, organisations, assets and funds with the intention to generate a positive social or environmental impact alongside a financial return.

Now, here’s the opportunity. Around 13 per cent of New Zealand’s social housing is provided by Community Housing Providers. In other countries, like Australia, it is more like 30 per cent. Yet, our government is not as big a fan of Community Housing Providers as they could be and are more ideologically locked into the centralised model of Kainga Ora providing social housing in New Zealand.

We shouldn’t care so much about the means by which improved housing outcomes are achieved. Results being delivered fast matters most and innovative Community Housing Providers should be viewed as a big “and” not an “or” given the sheer scale of our housing challenge.

  • Christopher Luxon is MP for Botany