Trust joins push to improve housing

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Rotorua Trust manager Tony Gill (left) with BayTrust chief executive Alastair Rhodes. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
Rotorua Trust manager Tony Gill (left) with BayTrust chief executive Alastair Rhodes. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Rotorua Trust will join other community funders across the Bay of Plenty and jointly focus on two key issues to improve sustainable housing in our region - housing quality and emergency short-term accommodation.

Rotorua Trust, along with BayTrust, TECT, the Acorn Foundation and Eastern Bay Energy Trust have agreed to work together to tackle these problems after commissioning a research paper to look at housing issues across the Bay of Plenty 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 Rotorua, Taupo, Whakatane, Opotiki, Kawerau Tauranga City and the Western Bay of Plenty.

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 although affordable housing is a critical issue, the keys to resolving this largely rest 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 on the quality of life of families. In particular they affect children and older people," he said.

"Meanwhile, the current pressures on the rental market in places like Rotorua 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."

Mr Rhodes said the funding organisations need 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.

Rotorua Trust Manager, Tony Gill, said the most pressing issues identified in the report for Rotorua were lack of short-term accommodation; lack of affordable rentals; overcrowding, and poor housing quality.

"Our trust is very concerned about the conditions some Rotorua families are living in. We know if we focus our collective efforts on housing related issues, we can make a real difference," he said.

"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 Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust's website and BayTrust's website at http://www.baytrust.org.nz/research-publications.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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