Our city’s involvement in social housing has a proud history, dating back to 1921 when eight houses were built on Council land in Huxley Street, Sydenham.
We were the first local authority in New Zealand to provide a purpose-built complex for elderly people, which was on Barnett Avenue, also in Sydenham.
And today, the Council is the second-largest landlord in New Zealand after Housing New Zealand with a portfolio of over two thousand social housing units.
Back in February 2014 we took a decision to consult the community on how we were best able to take our role in social housing forward.
This recognised that for some reason, local authorities are the only providers of social housing the government will not pay the income related rental subsidy – they will pay it to themselves and community housing providers but not to us.
The Government wants out of social housing; they’ve made that clear – we here in Christchurch are happy to step up and take over their role.
I personally believe we could provide a much more joined up integrated service if the city was able to share responsibility for all social housing tenants with the relevant local communities and we were able to provide security of tenure – building communities as opposed to houses.
Partnering with the Otautahi Community Housing Trust gives us the opportunity as a city to partner with a range of NGOs with expertise in much wider range of services than we provide. This is about ensuring tenants’ welfare and putting the social housing service on a better financial footing.
And it gives the Trust an opportunity to reach out to central government and invite them into the partnership, which would be better for all.
I’m attracted to the People's Project, Hamilton's multi-agency effort to end the complex and controversial business of homelessness in the city. It connects those who are sleeping rough with accommodation first and then provides the wrap-around support services they might need to restore independent living.
The signing of the lease to the Otautahi Community Housing Trust strengthens our city’s commitment to our most vulnerable community members continuing to have access to good-quality, affordable social housing.
And shows how much more we can achieve when we develop partnerships with our communities.
The Trust will ensure a stable future for tenants, while also acting as a catalyst for the building of new housing units in the city, and developing further partnerships which will enable our city’s commitment to housing, which started 95 years ago this year, to flourish for the decades to come.
And as I sign the lease can I acknowledge Carolyn Gallagher and her team – this isn’t just something we have to do, it is something we ought to do – it is in the best interests of our tenants today and those who come in the future. And you can be proud of the contribution you and your team have made.