Bays Community Housing Trust

"Affordable Housing For All"

 

 

 

Affordable Housing: What does this mean? - NZ Herald 20 Jul 2016

 

Much has been written about the housing crisis in Auckland, and elsewhere in New Zealand, but the issue of affordable housing is not well explained. Kiwis in upper wage brackets can always afford the high prices especially when they are buying and selling on the same market. It is the first home buyers and those with lower wages who are in trouble.

 

“Affordable housing” is a phrase that has been used in the media in different ways. A common definition is that a house is said to be affordable if its asking price is 75% of the median selling price of houses in the area. In a few months the median house price in Auckland will be a million dollars. Does that mean that a house costing $750,000 dollars is suddenly “affordable”? Likewise we are told that 20% of houses at Hobsonville are “affordable”.


An alternative definition is that housing is affordable if the cost of housing is 40% of take-home pay. Clearly what is affordable for a family depends on what they earn, so in this scenario the family income needs to be the starting point. Statistics NZ gives the median family income in Auckland for 2015 as $1575 pw. Using the IRD tax calculator and taking 3% for Kiwisaver leaves $1183 take home pay pw. Taking 40% of this take home pay gives $473 pw to pay the mortgage (or rent). If interest on the mortgage is 5% this will sustain a mortgage of $350,000. Assuming a 20% deposit was paid, a house costing $440,000 is therefore affordable under this definition. (Prudence suggests you should be prepared for an increase in mortgage rates to 7%, then you should only spend $360,000 on a house.)


When Labour promises 10,000 “affordable homes” a year costing between $500,000 and $600,000, the discussion above shows they are not affordable to more than 50% of the population. In fact Labour have shut our exactly the families they are claiming to help. This is consistent with the analysis by Simon Collins “Affordable houses a Dream” NZH 12 July. He states that only 46 percent of people aged 20 to 65 are able to afford a house priced at $500,000. Incidentally I am wondering how these families save the $100,000 deposit when they are paying an unaffordable (median) rent of over $500 pw.


There are properties for sale in Auckland with prices less than $440,000. The vast majority of these are one bedroom apartments with Body Corporate fees of at least $50 pw which will blow the budget. These one bedroom units are inappropriate for young families. Half of Auckland’s families have less income than this, so they have no hope of ever buying their own home. This is the reality for a family on the median wage or less.


When the price of houses means that half of the families in Auckland are shut out of the market, this is certainly a crisis. Crisis, a word National cannot pronounce. Adequate housing is a basic human right; this is recognized in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of which New Zealand is a signatory. That should be true for low to middle income earners also. The system in NZ should ensure that all people are able to afford adequate housing.


Currently hundreds of houses are being built around Auckland, the prices show they are catering for the top of the market. Clearly developers are aiming to optimize their profit. The important question is, what innovative mechanisms are there to build affordable houses for the other half of the population? The Government have settled for Income Related Rent Subsidies to Community Housing Providers (CHPs). This is slow, cumbersome and probably the most expensive option.


What other options could be considered?


Significant, innovative, immediate policy changes need to be made to create houses that are truly affordable before this generation do become permanently “generation rent”.


Neil Binnie is Manager of the Bays Community Housing Trust, a Community Housing Provider on the North Shore.

Photo / Sarah Ivey

 

 

'Bad street' safer with seniors - NZ Herald 1 Oct 2015

 

Neighbours the Ekueta family (from left, Pouta, 4, Noataga, 3, Saleima, and Peia, 6) and Kay McGregor chat over the fence. Mrs McGregor, 74, flats in a house owned by the Bays Community Housing Trust. Photo / Jason Oxenham

 

When Saleima and Ekueta Uilama moved into a state house in Northcote's Tonar St it was "a really bad street".
"You hear people fighting on the road. My kids can't even sleep in the night time," Mrs Uilama says.


Then in April last year five elderly women moved into a house built by the Bays Community Housing Trust on the next-door section where an old house had burned down. Suddenly the young people were quieter.


"Since they moved here there's no more fighting, no more noise," Mrs Uilama says. "The young people really respect the old people. It's good that we have a place like that for the old ones, it makes me safe as well."


The house, and another next door which opened later last year, are part of a flatting for seniors strategy by the housing trust to support older people who would otherwise feel isolated living alone.


"It's reimagining your neighbourhood," trust relationships manager Robyn Barry said. "It's what community is about. It's not about segregated groups of like-minded people getting together. It's about diversity together."


Kay McGregor, 74, one of the first residents, says the trust prepared well. "When we first went in, someone in the community pinched some of our stuff," she says. "Within two days all of that stuff was back because the trust worked hard. They had open days, barbecues, so the community would get used to having us there."


The women make a point of engaging with their neighbours.


"One Tongan lady takes her children to the school as dressed up as you can. I reached out and said, 'You do a wonderful job taking your children to school'," Mrs McGregor says. "So now we are smiling."


Margaret Castle, 75, says she always says hello to groups of youths. "I make a point of acknowledging them so they don't think I'm a silly old fart."


Mrs McGregor plays cards at the local community house Onepoto Awhina. Mrs Castle attends a multi-agency group that meets there. The house's community worker takes another woman from the trust houses to the shops and hospital appointments. The women have also volunteered to mentor young people at a community garden being set up at the local library.


Just having them there means the Uilama family, who are from Tuvalu, can stay longer when they visit Mrs Uilama's parents in West Auckland.


"We used to stay there only a few hours and come back because I don't trust kids breaking into the house."

 

 

 

Flatting – a new beginning

 

They've known each other for fewer than six months, but the residents of Sunrise House already think of themselves as sisters. Helene, Kay and Edith are the first tenants of a flat for seniors in Northcote.


The Bays Community Housing Trust (BCHT) looks after the five-bedroom house in Tonar St for single women over 65 who do not own their own property and have limited assets.
It was officially opened in February with the first of the women moving in a month later. The residents, who wanted to be known just by their first names, range in age from 65 to 85 and a fifth flatmate is on the way.


They have chosen to name the house Putanga Mai (Sunrise House) to represent a new beginning. Helene moved in after separating from her husband. She could not afford to stay in their house or find another rental on the pension. "I looked and looked and looked and got very desperate. What I could afford I wouldn't put my dog in." Helene saw the flatting project advertised in the North Shore Times and says it was a "message from heaven". For Edith, the house offered a chance to live independently again.


"It was something I'd been hoping for, wishing for. I didn't want to live alone."


She also saw the project in the North Shore Times and says it leapt out at her.


Kay has been on her own for 10 years and was delighted to find out about the project. She says the residents are all young at heart."As you get older you start to dwindle, but not here."


The residents have monthly meetings with BCHT's Robyn Barry to make sure everything is running smoothly. Barry, a social worker, is studying the project as part of her PhD. She says it is working very, very well. "They're amazing women, I love going there. It feels such a privilege to be part of their lives." BCHT is building a second, similar house next door to Sunrise House which will be offered to single men and women over 65.


Helene says her new home is perfect. "It answers a lot of things, I want to be independent but not alone. It brings security and friendship. We are like sisters I think." BCHT provides affordable housing on the North Shore for people in social or economic need, particularly mental health patients. It owns 18 properties and manages 12 which belong to Housing New Zealand.


The second house is due to open on August 31. Rent will be about $220 a week including power, water, phone and internet.
Call Robyn Barry on 020 4008 8754 or email relationshipmanager@ bcht.org.nz for more information.

 

 

Crucial Turning Point After Mental Illness                      NSTA 20/8/2013

 

Tara Clarke moved house six times in 2011.

The 21-year-old was diagnosed with a borderline personality disorder in late 2010 and her life became a constant battle with self-harm, overdoses, hospital stays and visits from emergency services at all hours - not what other people wanted to live with."I was really, really ill and going in and out of hospital. There were police and ambulances every day," she says. Ms Clarke went from house to house and even lived in a holiday camp before something happened that changed her life dramatically.

She was offered a place to stay in Albany by the Bays Community Housing Trust. The trust offers affordable housing to people in need, particularly mental health patients.
Ms Clarke says moving in was the best decision she ever made."I'm so glad there's agencies like that and there needs to be more of them," she says.
After less than a year she was off all her medication.

She went through a recovery programme run by mental health organisation Equip and is now living in a flat in West Auckland and considering a move to Wellington.
Ms Clarke says without the trust she would have ended up in long-term psychiatric care or "the worst thing you don't even want to think about" would have happened.
The trust accepted its 100th tenant this month.


Property manager Neil Binnie says the trust has achieved huge things since it started in 2004. "We had half a dozen people and no money, dreaming of a housing trust. It's a miracle really." The trust has a portfolio of 30 North Shore properties. It owns 18 of them and manages the other 12, which belong to Housing New Zealand and works with organisations like Equip and Connect Supporting Recovery. Ms Clarke says Mr Binnie was the best landlord.


"It's just the little things, like when I moved in there was a card and a Christmas cake for me. He would always pop in and say ‘Hey, how are you doing?'." The two factors key to her recovery were stability and a supportive landlord. Ms Clarke is happy to tell her story because "someone needs to stand up and say ‘We need to be heard'." She says mental health patients are "put into a box, a category" and people should be more aware and more understanding.

"We need stability, not to be going from place to place. Without that understanding from someone, it makes things worse." Ms Clarke's challenge now is not her mental health but learning to live with others. Having a supportive landlord has helped, but she says moving out has been hard. "It's not the same as being on my own. I'm learning how to mix and mingle." She recommends the housing trust to people facing the same situation. "At the end of the day that's what's going to get you better. They gave me a second chance at getting my life straight."

 

 

Abeo House changes lives 

TEAM EFFORT: Bays Community Housing Trust’s Neil Binnie and Abeo House team leader Scott MacNevin.

Abeo is a Latin word for change, transformation or metamorphosis.

Abeo House has been running on the North Shore for almost two years, helping people with mental health issues make their own transformations. It homes eight people while they take part in 12 to 18-month programmes run by Connect Supporting Recovery.


Residential services manager Aaron Carey says it is hard to quantify their success, but they have had one tenant come back to run a course for other residents.

"We've had a lot of positive feedback from people who have lived here and moved on."


Abeo House was a joint effort by the Bays Community Housing Trust and Connect Supporting Recovery.

The trust built the houses and now acts as a landlord.

Property manager Neil Binnie says the location of Abeo House is fabulous because it is in the community but isolated from it. Mr Carey says most of Abeo's tenants are from the hospital."They come from environments where they don't exercise a lot of choice."


The recovery programmes teach independence and life skills such as cooking and shopping.

Abeo House team leader Scott MacNevin says it is about getting people a life of their choosing.

"That's the goal. We really want to reduce the involvement of mental health services."


The Bays Community Housing Trust aims to provide affordable housing on the North Shore for people in social or economic need, particularly those who have experienced mental illness.

Mr Binnie says it is wonderful to see Abeo House being used so well.


"It took a long time to get it all finished off but it's worth it. I love coming here."