Damien Sycamore is now the Waiheke Community Housing Trust’s first official employee, stepping up as its general manager just three months after joining the team as a volunteer.

Damien spoke to Gulf News in August about the trust’s plan to increase the availability of rentals on Waiheke, partnering with Habitat for Humanity to help property owners fast-track houses onto the long-term rental market with zero/low interest loans to get homes up to code, with contractors offering subsidised rates and professionals to guide them throughout the process. 

As general manager, Damien is spearheading an expansion of that programme to “activate” houses that are largely lying dormant and empty because the owners think renting would be too hard. The trust estimates as much as 30 percent of Waiheke houses could fall into this category. And with the costs and barriers to building on Waiheke, this is the best way the trust can help, Damien says. “If you want to have an outsized impact on housing, quickly, don’t build houses. Find houses that aren’t doing anything.” 

The plan is to offer a “wrap-around service” ranging from advice on landlords’ obligations and rights, to managing paperwork, finding tenants and connecting property owners with contractors, advisors and even property managers that suit them. Damien says the idea is to make things at least as easy as going the short-term rental route. 

“AirBnB is favourable to people for a number of reasons. We don’t want to say stop doing what’s good for you right now. What we want to do is say ‘have you thought about this other option? Particularly if we did the hard stuff, made it cost effective and it would benefit the community.” • Paul Mitchell

Full story in this week’s Gulf News… Out Now!!!

Subscribe and read Gulf News and Waiheke Weekender Online