Administrator Mark Inglis explains the housing trust’s first project. Photo Geoff Cumming

The Waiheke Community Housing Trust is off to a flying start in its bid to increase the supply of affordable rental housing on the island.

The trust came away from its launch on Saturday with potential pledges totalling $60,000 in personal loans. It also received more than $1300 in donations and pledges and nine offers of free labour. This is on top of earlier offers from local tradies to provide discounted work to the value of $60,000.

The trust has identified a variety of ways to respond to Waiheke’s affordability crisis, ranging from leasing and building on spare sections to managing rentals for owners who do not need to maximise income.

Trustee Lindsay Jeffs said its target is to add 100 dwellings to the island’s rental housing stock within 10 years. The homes will be rented to young working families and to over-55s at no more than 80 percent of market rates.

It says Waihekeans can help through donations, investments, loans, bequeathments, acting as guarantors or by contributing labour or materials at discount rates.

Long term it hopes to introduce options such as shared equity – allowing people with small deposits to build up equity in a home and buy it over time.

But its immediate focus is to raise $266,000 by October 7 to meet the deposit on its planned first venture: the redevelopment of an Onetangi property subdivided into two sections, one with a modest bach on it. The trust plans to renovate and expand the two-bedroom bach and build a multiple-unit home on the spare section, creating rental housing for up to 13 people including families, elderly people and disabled tenants.

It would own the properties but it envisages other projects where it could lease spare land off owners with large sections able to take an additional dwelling under the district plan.
The weekend launch at Old Blackpool School Hall attracted about 45 curious locals. It followed two years of discussions about an effective local response to the problem of young families and older islanders being forced off the island by unaffordable rentals and the soaring cost of home deposits.

Administrator Mark Inglis drew strong applause when he said the trust’s deed provides for land to be held in perpetuity for the benefit of locals. “This is us buying Waiheke for Waihekeans,” said Mr Inglis, who’s day job is as Waiheke Local Board advisor.

The comment helped allay misguided suspicions about the trust’s motives – when it comes to property, most people believe there is money to be made. It is the property market’s long-term reputation for gains that the trust hopes to use as leverage to attract loans and philanthropic backers.

However, one or two concerns about risk were expressed at the meeting. Local board member Cath Handley queried what might happen in a falling property market. Trust chairman Paul Carew responded that New Zealand had a critical under-supply of housing and a time when supply exceeded demand was not forseeable.
Geoff Cumming

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