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As at April 2012, this is one of three "Doorways" publications I have provided 100% of the writing and layout on, for Community Housing Aotearoa, initiated under my direction and directly allied to strategic communications.

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  1. 1. # A publication of Community Housing AotearoaFocus on Housing affordabilityIf the community housing sector had just one Clear answers todollar for every time those two words - housing that question haveaffordability - have appeared in the heading of a featured in thereport or media coverage we would be a rich sector! work conducted by the ProductivityThe term “housing affordability” has a slippery quality Commission in the course of its housing affordabilityto it. In a mainstream sense more often than not it’s all inquiry, starting with chapter 11 of its rst draft report,about the state of the real estate market, mortgages, the opening sentence of which made the obviousinterest rates, home buyers and the substantial yet observation that “Housing affordability issues tend to bediminished home-owner segment of society. But where most acute for low-income households”.does “housing affordability” bite hardest? READ MORE INSIDE Opening Editorial / 16 April 2012 What made the Commission’s April pronouncements all the more signicant for the community housing sector Timely reality check provided was that we were once again prominently agged as having a “unique and valuable role to ll”. Mr Sherwin by Productivity Commission rightly dismisses the notion that our sector is possessed of deep pockets, and rightly notes that allocations from Following closely in the wake of the Productivity Government, be that to the Social Housing Fund (or Commission’s inquiry into housing affordability*, indeed to CHA) are “well short of what is needed”. this issue of Community Housing Aotearoa’s agship publication, Doorways, intentionally seeks to pick up His conclusion: “Helping the community housing sector to on and amplify some of the key points in the report. expand must be at the heart of addressing the current hole in social housing policy”. The Commission has done a real service by holding up a mirror to the Government’s housing policy and openly In what will hopefully not be a rare piece of further stating what it saw: “the lack of a clear and coherent commentary and analysis in the media, respected business way of thinking”. That quote is directly from an editorial journalist Pattrick Smellie focused his summary of the opinion piece written by Murray Sherwin, Chair of the inquiry report on its recommendation about a juiced-up Commission, as published in the DominionPost under the accommodation supplement targeted for tenants of headline ‘A hole at the heart of housing policy?’ community housing organisations. Pattrick described this as “an invitation to the kind of social policy innovation the In all my time at CHA - through the twists, turns and Government says it wants across the state sector”. hopeful dawns of reports such as the Housing Shareholder Advisory Group’s call for a major shift in direction for As Pattrick says, let’s hope someone’s listening. social housing investment - I can’t think of a more timely reality check, calling into question as it does the coherence of the policy framework and its current implementation. The challenge to the levels of thinking and rhetoric around how best to address “greatest need” is doubtless overdue. David McCartney, Executive Ofcer (* as released on 11 April 2012, one year after the establishment of the Productivity Commission, an independent crown entity) of Community Housing Aotearoa Doorways Published in April 2012 by Community Housing ISSN 2230-214X (Print) ISSN 2230-2158 Doorways is published by Community Housing Aotearoa.Aotearoa – (Online)
  2. 2. Commission cuts to the chaseIn what may have been a surprise to many,the Productivity Commission’s recentlyreleased report on affordable housing calledfor a reconsideration of current social housingreforms.A major nding of the “(The Fund) set up toCommission’s inquiry, as help the communityhighlighted in its ‘Cut to the housing sector grow ischase’ summary publication not equal to the taskwas its independent demanded of it”.determination that the Without a sufcientcurrent approach to social funding package for thehousing reveals some community sector topotentially awed thinking. expand “as is needed” - page 237 of the report - theThe Commission was only alternatives wouldparticularly concerned be for costly Governmentthat the introduction of expansion of state housingreviewable tenancies by or a “steep increase inHousing New Zealandmight involve the very household incomes” (both FUNDAMENTAL FINDINGS unlikely). The absence of any clear demand projections orreal risk that not everyonewho is judged ready to The Commission helpfully objectives setting out what a sufcient social“move on” will be able to reinforced the role that the housing response would be.nd somewhere to move community housing sector Robust projections of unmet demand and futureto. In issuing a caution as a whole lls in providing demand for social housing that will not be met throughagainst “excessive reliance below market rents, security increasing or realigning the state housing portfolio, areon the private sector rental of tenure and wrap around essential for an honest assessment and conversationmarket to accommodate services for those whose about what needs to be done, at what pace, and withformer HNZC tenants”, needs “run well beyond just what resource.the Commission was affordable housing”. The way the Accommodation Supplement (AS)also cautioning against abates hinders the ability of community housing The Commission put aan assumption that the organisations to improve housing affordability for high value on the trustcommunity housing sector their clients. that community housingcan magically “make up In the current environment of scal restraint one organisations build up whenthe difference” on top of option is to reprioritise/ reduce the eligibility for AS and they are adequately fundedmeeting other unmet needs. use the money this ‘saves’ towards funding the growth to provide services. “The number of tenants of the community sector. One caveat being thatwhose circumstances “Damaged trust signicant modelling and analysis would be requiredmay improve enough (through under-funding) to prove this option viable. Where community housingto no longer need a may well undermine any future reforms”. organisations provide reduced rents to their clients, astate house far outstripsthe annual increase in denite recommendation put by the Commission to the Addressing the issues Government is that a market rent level AS be providedcommunity housinglikely to be achieved identied by the (broadly comparable to the Income-Related Rentsthrough funding from Commission poses subsidy received for state house tenants).the Social Housing Unit”. a challenge not just for central and local ALL FINDINGS & RECOMMENDATIONSThe media release issued government agencies, but The Productivity Commission also made ndings andwith the Commission’s for all those involved in recommendations on: The role of taxation; Urbannal report highlighted the the business of housing in planning; Paying for infrastructure development; Theinsufciency of the Social the non-government and performance of the building industry; The private rentalHousing Fund as another commercial sectors as well. market; Social housing; and Maori housing.aw in the current reforms. Published in April 2012 by Community Housing Aotearoa –
  3. 3. Auckland occupies centre stageAccording to the Productivity Commission’sreport on housing affordability the challengeof providing adequate housing for NewZealand’s future population is largely anAuckland one.The reason being that, while a complex web of demographicinuences are at work in New Zealand, the outcome overallis that household formation is concentrated in and nearAuckland, and is likely to remain so for the next few decades.According to reported gures the decrease in home ownershipsince the end of the 1990s has been particularly marked inAuckland, where 42% of households rent (including thosewho rent state houses), as opposed to 32% for the rest ofNew Zealand. Another trend seen particularly in Auckland isthat rental affordability has become an issue further up theincome distribution – in the $50k-$70K income range.In the long run, the Commission concluded, better optionsfor long-term renters on low incomes are likely to comethrough the growth of the community housing sector. Butin the short to medium term, they expect demand to exceed Auckland Plan cleared for landingsupply, particularly in Auckland. Now adopted by the Auckland Council (on 29 March 2012) a nal copy of the Auckland Plan will be available atA divergence between house prices in Auckland and the rest from June. The Plan’sof the country now appears to be entrenched, and has been directives for housing - under four priorities - are:particularly pronounced at the lower end of the housing 1. Increase housing supply to meet demandmarket. Between 1995 and 2011, the difference between • Develop and deliver on a multi-sector Housing Strategiclower quartile house prices in Auckland and the rest of the Action Plan to achieve the required increase in housingcountry increased by over 260% in real terms. supply, including options to increase affordable housing supply for rst home buyersConversely, the share of new dwellings in the lower quartile • Improve access to rst home ownership through advocacyhas fallen from around 30-35% to 5%. As such, the majority by Auckland Council to central Governmentof new dwellings built in Auckland and the rest of the country 2. Increase housing choice to meet diverse preferences andare currently not targeted at the affordable end of the market. needs • Encourage a mix of dwelling types within neighbourhoods,In its submission to the Commission’s inquiry Auckland across Auckland to reect changing demographics, familyCouncil related the severity of housing affordability in structures and age groupsAuckland to “widespread and persistent overcrowding and 3. Improve the quality of existing and new housingan escalating shortage of housing accessible for people on • Encourage and incentivise retrotting of existing housinglow and modest incomes”, adding that 28% of all Auckland stock, and require new housing to be sited and designedhouseholds pay more than 30% of gross household income to meet best practice urban design and sustainable housing principleson housing costs. 2011 data on new bonds held by the 4. Improve housing affordability and the supply ofDepartment of Building and Housing shows rents in all areas affordable housingof Auckland have increased, particularly in South Auckland. • Auckland Council commits to working with others toPRODUCTIVITY COMMISSION RECOMMENDATIONS urgently investigate and use the whole range of possible housing development vehicles, policy and regulatory• Auckland Council should look to collaborative models tools to increase the supply of affordable housing for the process of identifying, assembling and releasing • Explore all options to reduce homelessness in a partnership between the Auckland Council, central government and large-scale tracts of land. the community sector• Auckland Council should show in its nal Auckland Plan • Support Maori to achieve affordable, healthy and how it has considered and reconciled affordable housing sustainable housing which meets their specic needs alongside its other priorities • Increase housing supply and choice that meets Pacic people’s specic needs Published in April 2012 by Community Housing Aotearoa –
  4. 4. INVESTMENT IN SIX CREDIBLE QUESTIONS SOCIAL HOUSING When Community Housing Aotearoa contributed to the nal stage of theWhen the semi-autonomous Social Housing Unit (SHU) was brought into Productivity Commission’s inquiry onexistence in July 2011 one of the clear directions in its terms of reference Housing Affordability (see front page and inside pages) we concentrated onwas to deliver a draft social housing investment strategy. two main areas of impact: the impact ofSuch a strategy should, said the terms of reference agreed by Cabinet, outline urban planning and the impacts of whathow the SHU “will go about growing third party provision of social housing”. might best be called un-affordability.Given the shared imperative that goal creates for the role of community We commended the Commission forhousing organisations, individually and collectively, any opportunity at all to the number of vital questions it had putparticipate in a strategy-based planning process has been keenly anticipated forward, but in making our submissionby Community Housing Aotearoa (CHA) and its members. Speaking at a - available with 87 others at www.recent CHA member forum in March, the SHU’s Director, Michael Pead, - we also made itprovided an update indicating that internal work within the SHU, the clear that our answers about the viableDepartment of Building and Housing (DBH) and other agencies such as MSD role to be played by the communitywas underway towards preparing a pragmatic Social Housing Investment Plan housing sector in helping to meet New(SHIP), rather than a strategy as such. Zealand’s affordable housing needs were having to rely on some basicThis process has not, as it transpires, involved any formal / transparent assumptions; assumptions that would beconsultation. In fact in an e-newsletter distributed last month, the SHU best debated in the context of the Socialexplicitly stated no “wide scale consultation” would be undertaken. Housing Investment Plan (SHIP).Hence CHA’s growing concerns that this important level of policy setting and In the absence of that debate takingdevelopment - responsibility for which actually sits most squarely with the place through wide scale consultation,DBH - needs to be debated widely and not counterproductively limited Community Housing Aotearoa has(see righthand column). determined it has a responsibility toCHA is well aware of the path the SHU is following, as its own internal advance the debate itself.budget spend increases in order to employ the expertise for such broad At the very least there are a set offunctions as the development of a ‘social housing market’. However under- six starter questions that should beresourced it might be as a peak body, CHA is fortunately also able to call on a central to the development of a crediblecomplementary network of expert knowledge possessed among its collective investment strategy and/ or plan forgrouping of community-focused members and supporters, and is committed social housing. They are:to drawing more extensively on that network of knowledge during 2012. • Need - Forecasting for the future, how big will the housing shortfallsCHA’s priority in relation to the ‘social housing market’ about to be shaped by be?the SHU’s funding decisions, is to continue to question what regard is being • Subsidy models - What is the bestgiven to the enduring role and place of all community housing organisations way to assist households to gainwithin that ‘market’ - a role they have long played as providers of housing- affordable housing?related services, options and new assets. In addition to working within new • Scale - What is a viable and desirable scale for the communityfunding scenarios as they unfold, the challenges ahead include: housing sector?• reafrming that community housing has, by its very ethos as a housing • Sector growth - What level of movement that responds to need, always set out to offer solutions that nancial support is necessary to seriously underpin the long-term broaden public understanding of ‘social housing’ and that deliver much growth of community housing more than a convenient substitute for state or public housing organisations?• preserving the fundamental identity of a community housing sector • Institutional - What other changes so that it isn’t lost under the non-government provider (NGP) catch-all are necessary to see a dedicated community housing programme being promoted by the SHU, and to mitigate the risk of community included in the SHIP? housing organisations (CHOs) being relegated to the margins of policy • Funding - Based on a reasonable, making, planning, funding allocations and implementation debated set of assumptions what• continuing to act as a ‘catalyst for change’ in ways that an agency such would a realistic Budget gure be? as the SHU can never fully replicate, through being a champion for well- The question put by the Productivity informed policy making and community-aligned decision taking Commision was this: Does the size of the Social Housing Fund t future demand? FOLLOW THE ISSUES Their modelling, based on HNZC data, If you don’t currently receive this publication and would like to follow the issues produced an estimate that the annual featured here, please send us an email with PLEASE SUBSCRIBE ME build of community housing has to in the subject line, to: be more than doubled to at least 275 houses a year. Published in April 2012 by Community Housing Aotearoa – Published in April 2012 by Community Housing Aotearoa –