Accessible Properties, which will take over more than 1100 state houses in the Bay of Plenty from Housing New Zealand on 1 April - and has committed to building 150 new homes - yesterday opened its new office in Tauranga.
"We have chosen [Accessible Properties] very carefully as our first partner off the block because we know this will be a success," Social Housing Minister Amy Adams told guests at the opening.
"Most importantly it's about the tenants, how we work with them, how we support them, and how we help them transition - potentially - through social housing and back into independence," she said.
"A big bottom line for us in this programme is to ensure that tenants have to be first of all actively guaranteed that nothing will change for them to their detriment. But actually we're looking for a range of innovation from providers as to the way we can work differently and better with tenants."
Those attending included Tauranga MP Simon Bridges, Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller, Education Minister Hekia Parata, and Pacific People's Minister Alfred Ngaro, as well as Tauranga mayor Greg Brownless, Western Bay mayor Garry Webber, social housing experts and officials and iwi representatives.
Accessible Properties is a charitable organisation owned by IHC.
Ms Adams said the Accessible Properties' transaction was going to provide a really good benchmark for Government as it widened its state house sales programme.
"It is really worth noting that when Housing NZ is selling these properties, it is so that they can continue to grow their stock in other areas," she said.
Accessible Properties chairman Paul Adams said the acquisition of the portfolio in Tauranga, Mount Maunganui, Papamoa and Te Puke, was a "quantum leap" for the charity, growing its business by 40 per cent.
"We intend working closely with iwi social support agencies, councils and key government agencies to help our tenants contribute to society and work towards housing independence," he said.
"In the end this is about people, families and their homes and the community they live in, creating a platform for our more vulnerable citizens to stabilise their lives and contribute positively to their community."
Andrew Wilson, the new general manager Tauranga, said Accessible Properties had led the way in achieving community integration with social housing. "From the new office, our tenancy managers will act as community connectors for tenants who would like to access more social or community support services or iwi links."
Karen Mitchell, the Treasury transaction lead for social housing reform, said Accessible Properties would be introducing its own, different model on social housing.
"They will have more people on the ground interacting with the tenants, and meeting with other social service providers," she said, noting that the new provider's ratio of tenancy managers to tenants was 1:178, compared with Housing NZ's 1:250/350.
Jan Tinetti, Labour candidate for Tauranga and principal of Merivale School, an opponent of the sale of state houses, said she was saddened it was going ahead in Tauranga.
"I believe that we need that national system," she said, adding that many of the state house families she dealt with at the school felt "up in the air" as they were uncertain about what would happen to them under the new system.
"I'm hopeful it will work for them, because I don't want to see them go backwards. However, I can't see why we couldn't make the [state house] system that was already there, work."
Ngati Ranginui chief executive Steph O'Sullivan said it was important to reconfigure the housing landscape to develop a good spectrum of supply, including emergency and social housing, and affordable housing and home ownership options.
"Under Accessible Properties, not only will tenants have better service in terms of more tenancy managers, they will reconfigure so we get more stock, and more appropriate stock," she said.
"We'll get the size and configuration of houses we need for the families who need them, and newer, fresher homes, better service and better delivery. If this wasn't on the horizon, my question would be what would Tauranga do?"
-A registered community housing provider and a charitable organisation.
-Manages more than 1600 homes throughout the country. From 1 April the number will increase to more than 2700.
-The most successful applicant for government Social Housing Fund grants, which has enabled a programme of new-build construction of nearly 200 social housing units.
-A subsidiary of IHC New Zealand, which has been providing social housing for more than 60 years.