Public Housing in New Zealand: Something is a Bubbling Down Under

I started this blog in 2014 to monitor my research and fellowship time in Germany and EU.  I wrote dozens of blogs about what was happening in the realm of public housing and homelessness across multiple EU countries.  Since returning to the US, my blog has focused a lot on process improvement.  Today I want to discuss something a little more international in flavor.  In New Zealand, the federal department called Housing New Zealand is transferring some of its housing stock to smaller local housing providers.  There are teams of researchers, policy makers and advocates working on this in New Zealand so I do not approach this as an expert. Instead, I want to give a 30,000 foot view of what is happening for others working in affordable housing around the world.  I must say that  I started writing this blog and reined myself back in because of the complexity of the subject matter.  Again, this is just to let you know that something is happening in the world of affordable/social housing and that you should be interested.

Without being an expert or having any contact with staff in New Zealand, it seems that this transfer of housing stock comes out of a larger strategy of social housing reform.  The reform cuts across multiple federal departments as much of the information is on the Ministry of Social Development’s website. According to their website the main objectives of reform include:

  • Ensuring social housing is the right design and size, and in the right place for people who need it
  • Increase affordable housing supply
  • Ensure people who need housing support can get it and receive social services that meet their needs
  • Encourage and develop more diverse ownership of social housing, with more innovation and responsiveness to tenants and communities
  • Help social housing tenants to independence, as appropriate. (http://socialhousing.govt.nz/)

How Does Transfer Fit?

As we can see above, encouraging diverse ownership of social housing is a goal of the reform program.  One of the drivers of the ownership question revolves around the question of what agencies in New Zealand  might be able to provide better services to residents of social housing. If the answer is that there are some local providers who can provide better services, when/where does it make sense to put the physical units in those provider’s hands.   How much does the need for redevelopment/upgrades of existing housing fit into transfer?

Tamaki Portfolio Transfer

The transfer program is in its infancy stages.  If the reform program holds true, we could be talking decades for it to complete its course.  As of now, the only transfer I could find that is complete is the Tamaki portfolio transfer.  Tamaki is an established community outside of Auckland and consists of, “Europeans, Pacific Islanders, Māori and Asian people” (http://www.tamakiregeneration.co.nz/our-community/about-t%C4%81maki)

This first transfer saw 2800 units turned over to the Tāmaki Regeneration Company (TRC).  TRC is a newer agency in itself and its creation came about in order to regenerate the Tamaki community.  On the Department of Treasury’s website, it is clear the creation of TRC took place to help local residents better their job skills and education while looking at the entire economic status of the community.  Housing, urban development and overall community planning are all in scope for this organization.  -http://www.treasury.govt.nz/publications/briefings/2013-housing/11.htm

TRC’s mission and work probably align quite nicely with the overall federal program of social housing reform.  It makes sense that the first transfer would be to an organization that was already engaged at master planning at such a high level.  The transfer is to TRC immediately brought about new landlords for residents.  However; the rights of residents remain close if not unchanged from their tenancy with Housing New Zealand.  So what is happening now that the transfer took place? Major redevelopment is going to be taking place.  From what I can understand, TRC is going to build around 7500 units of housing.  It looks as though the 2800 units of social housing will be demolished over the next 15 years and replaced with new social housing.  Private housing that will be for sale will help fund some of these costs.

Conclusion-To Be Continued???

Although I am tempted to go into greater detail with this blog, it would be a mistake.  The more I dig, the more complex/interesting this becomes.  The idea of devolving public housing to providers at the local level is both exciting and frighting.  At the local level, agencies/providers might have a better read on what is necessary to support/improve their community.  However; what type of professional apparatus is in place to manage/redevelop/fund and support the structure needed to run affordable housing programs?  I leave you with this.  If you are an affordable housing provider, you should be extremely interested in what is happening in New Zealand.  This reform is up there with social housing reform in the UK and the devolution of social housing from the German federal state to the German state level.

Resources: 

Community Housing Aotearoa (CHA) http://www.communityhousing.org.nz/

Housing New Zealand-http://www.hnzc.co.nz/

 

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