Accessible Properties has signed a contract with the Government confirming it will acquire and manage 1140 state homes in Tauranga, and plans to add 150 more houses to its portfolio.
The 1140 homes are currently with Housing New Zealand and will transfer on April 1, 2017. The contract was signed today and Housing New Zealand tenants are receiving letters this week explaining the change of ownership.
Paul Adams, chairman of Accessible Properties, said it was committed to providing social housing in Tauranga for at least 25 years, and would be making positive changes which would include improvements to existing properties as well as the addition of new ones.
"In addition to improvements and maintenance we also want to grow the number of homes we provide in Tauranga and to make sure they are the right size to meet the needs of current and future tenants. We plan to provide at least another 150 homes in the city."
Mr Adams confirmed to the Bay of Plenty Times that Accessible Properties would buy or build the additional houses. He did not rule out subdividing existing properties where suitable.
"We will also reconfigure existing houses so they suit the needs of current and future tenants. We won't reduce the number of homes - we will increase them."
Mr Adams said that tenants would receive access to services from a wide range of community, social services and iwi groups.
"We have a Memorandum of Understanding with Tauranga Moana iwi and have always worked with a range of agencies to help our tenants get any wider support that they need."
Accessible Properties general manager Andrew Wilson, who had worked in disability and social housing for 20 years, would be relocating to Tauranga in the New Year where the company would open an office in Cameron Rd. Twelve staff would be initially employed.
"Our tenancy managers will act as community connectors for those who would like to access more social or community support services or iwi links," Mr Wilson said.
Mr Wilson said the company would also be improving the standard of existing properties,
"The properties have been assessed as being at a very good standard - we'll maintain this and, if anything, make improvements. We are also committed to introducing some new safety features to homes."
Accessible Properties was committed to tenants and was determined to provide a great service, Mr Wilson said.
"We are looking forward to meeting our tenants, to let them know more about us and most importantly to seek their views on what we can improve upon before we formalise any plans of our own. I will say that we are keen to make some changes."
Mr Wilson said they wanted to ensure a smooth transfer with tenants fully informed.
"I want to assure tenants that although their landlord will change, people can remain in their homes for as long as they are eligible and their rent will not change as a result of this transfer."
Merivale School principal Jan Tinetti, who has previously spoken out in protest of the sale of state houses, yesterday said she was disappointed state housing was now "social housing".
"We are in the middle of a housing crisis and it is a time when more than ever the Government should be protecting the most vulnerable, not devolving its responsibility."
She said she believed the new provider had "good intentions" and she "hoped it will work well", but was concerned about the loss of a national network, and said that there were still "unanswered questions" about how the new system would work.
"Some families I know have been rehoused in other parts of the country- so it's concerning how that would work if a provider is local not national."
The transfer had been opposed by advocacy group by State Housing Action Incorporated but in December it lost its legal bid in the High Court to stop the of sale the 1124 Tauranga state houses.
State Housing Action national convener John Minto said at the time the group was disappointed with the decision and might consider an appeal.
Earlier in the year Phil Twyford, Labour's housing spokesman, also criticised the decision to sell the portfolio. Neither Mr Minto nor Mr Twyford could be reached for comment today.
However, Mr Adams said he had not been informed of any appeal and did not expect any delays in the transfer.
"We are looking forward to opening our new Bay of Plenty office and bringing more people the service our current tenants enjoy.
"We know what a difference good housing makes, and with the properties we already own we are proud to be able to make a difference"
Mr Adams said Accesible Properties was a national organisation.
IHC, which was the sole shareholder, had been involved in social housing throughout New Zealand for 60 years, he said.
- It is a registered community housing provider.
- Tenants will still be eligible for the Government's income-related rent or other benefits as they are now.
- Accessible Properties has been providing housing for more than 60 years and in Tauranga for more than 50.
- Accessible Properties is a New Zealand-based registered charity, and a wholly owned subsidiary of IHC New Zealand. It already manages more than 1600 properties, including 500 in the Waikato/Bay of Plenty.