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Maharey: Fostering effective housing partnerships

Steve Maharey Speech: Fostering effective housing partnerships

Comments at a Housing Innovation and Local Government Housing Funds workshop. Caccia Birch, Palmerston North.

Introduction

Thank you Peter and thank you for the invitation to open the workshop today. I am delighted to be here.

I don’t think I need to tell you how important housing is to us all – both as individuals and as a society. Not only does it meet our basic needs for shelter and security. It also has far-reaching implications for our social and economic well-being.

Affordable, good quality housing has a major role in creating healthy, strong and cohesive communities. And to do that we need good housing policy.

Current housing issues

Changes in the housing sector, in our demographic make-up and the social and economic circumstances of households in recent years have made that all the more important, and reinforced the need to take a more long-term approach.

As many of you will know, we are developing the New Zealand Housing Strategy, taking into account a wide variety of housing and social sector views. This sort of collaboration is absolutely critical if we are to address the challenges we face in housing over the coming years.

The housing market has changed and the demand for social housing has never been higher. Housing affordability has declined in proportion to real incomes, with low-income households being particularly hard hit as house prices and rental costs rise.

Home ownership has declined and there have been changes in family structure reflecting New Zealand’s ageing and increasingly ethnically diverse population.

Working together

To resolve these complex issues, we need to plan for quality and diverse medium density housing that current and future infrastructure can support over time.

But it is clear that resolving these issues is beyond the scope of the private sector, central government or local government alone. They require a concerted and progressive partnership approach. And that is why you are here today.

As well as working to expand and improve existing state housing, Housing New Zealand Corporation is already working with a range of community and voluntary organisations around the country to increase access to affordable housing through loans or joint ventures.

Now the Corporation is looking to create new and innovative partnerships to complement those existing initiatives and increase the amount of available social housing stock.

Earlier this year I announced $63 million in funding over four years to encourage third sector groups and local government to increase their involvement in providing rental housing and home ownership opportunities to low-income earners and those with special needs.

The funding will be used for two separate initiatives – a Housing Innovation Fund for third sector partnerships and a Local Government Housing Fund.

The Housing Innovation Fund

The Housing Innovation Fund will comprise capital funding, grants and low interest loans for demonstration projects, that will be delivered through partnerships between Housing New Zealand and community-based organisations to buy, build or modify rental accommodation and to develop affordable home ownership opportunities.

The funding is specifically targeted at initiatives for low to moderate income households whose housing needs are not being met by the private housing market. For example applicants on HNZC waiting lists in Auckland who because of their priority are unlikely to be offered a state house, people with disabilities, and iwi/Maori and Pacific peoples.

It will also include an Establishment Fund to provide feasibility and development grants to help community groups meet some of the costs of developing new proposals and access specialist help where needed.

And it will provide funding to develop a third sector representative group to support and represent community-based housing providers.

The Local Government Housing Fund

The objective of the Local Government Housing Fund is to encourage Councils to keep and expand their existing rental housing stock.

The funding will be in the form of interest-free suspensory loans for acquisitions, modernisations and reconfigurations.

We want to encourage Councils to stay in social housing and to look at different and innovative ways of working with other Councils in their region, and/or with local community-based organisations to grow and enhance existing stock.

The objective of both funds is to ensure existing social housing stock is retained and that new ideas and innovations are explored to find the right housing solutions for local communities.

The Government cannot continue to meet the increasing demand for social housing on our own, and we want to find new ways of working with the community and others to help meet that demand.

While the funding is limited, we want to explore new ideas and initiatives and we want to help grow the capacity of community groups to meet the social housing needs of their local communities.

Concluding remarks

It is important that separate initiatives, which may impact on each other, are thought through and connected – as it is only by working together that we will make good quality, affordable housing for all New Zealanders a reality.

Thank you for making the time to be here today to learn more about the Housing Innovation and Local Government Housing Funds.

We look forward to working with you.

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