Bay's biggest community funders unite on new housing focus

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Nicky Wilkins, general manager of the Acorn Foundation which has joined with other Bay organisations to help fund better housing for residents. Photo/file
Nicky Wilkins, general manager of the Acorn Foundation which has joined with other Bay organisations to help fund better housing for residents. Photo/file

Some of the Bay of Plenty's largest community funding organisers have come together to improve local emergency housing and housing quality.

BayTrust, TECT, the Acorn Foundation, Rotorua Trust and the Eastern Bay Energy Trust have agreed to work together to tackle the problems after commissioning a research paper to look at housing issues across the Bay and examine what community funders can do to make the most difference.

The high-level report, prepared by the Centre for Social Impact, has just been released and looks at a wide range of housing issues affecting Tauranga City, Western Bay of Plenty, Whakatane, Opotiki, Kawerau, Rotorua and Taupo.

Problems such as affordability, availability, suitability and quality were studied and recommendations made on potential roles and opportunities for Community Funders to make a positive impact in these areas.

BayTrust chief executive Alastair Rhodes said in a statement this morning that although affordable housing was a critical issue, the keys to resolving it largely rested with central and local government policies.

Instead the group will collectively focus on improving housing quality (particularly healthy housing) and providing more assistance for emergency short-term housing issues.

"Poor quality and unhealthy housing is a widespread issue across the Bay. Cold, damp houses create significant health issues and negatively impact the quality of life of families. It also particularly affects children and older people," Mr Rhodes said.

"Meanwhile, the current pressures on the rental market and a lack of emergency short-term housing has resulted in an increasing number of people being homeless so there is a real need for temporary accommodation, particularly for women and children. These are issues where community funders in partnership with key government agencies, NGOs, iwi, councils and the community, can make a real and immediate difference."

In Tauranga, the report identified several other pressing issues including: lack of family-suitable dwellings (3+ bedrooms); lack of 1-2 bedroom dwellings; overcrowding; lack of suitable low cost housing for older people; and lack of affordable houses to either buy or rent.

Nicky Wilkins, general manager of the Acorn Foundation, said the funding organisations needed to be strategic, intentional and innovative and invest in the right areas to see change.

"This research really highlights the need to collaborate and work together if we want to make a real difference. The issues are complex and different across the region, and there is no one solution."

In the last five years community funders have invested nearly $9m across the region into housing. This has primarily been through insulation programmes, supporting housing developments and providing funding to organisations that work to help people find and stay in sustainable housing.

TECT general manager Wayne Werder has seen the difference that retro-fitting insulation in older homes can make.

"TECT has been involved in home insulation programmes for a number of years. We know that warm homes make people healthier and save money. The key to future investment will be ensuring we can prioritise where this investment will have the greatest impact.

"Commissioning this paper was the start of us of working more closely together on housing, and will help inform where we go from here."

The sustainable housing research paper is now available for download from each funder's website and BayTrust's website here .

- Bay of Plenty Times

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