Concerns over a lack of social housing in New Zealand has inspired a Christchurch church to buy back homes it sold to the city council decades ago.
When the Christchurch City Council agreed to transfer $50m worth of social housing to the Ōtautahi Community Housing Trust, it had to, under the Public Works Act, give the original owners or their descendants the first opportunity to buy their property back at the current market value.
Only one was taken up – for 10 units north of Christchurch's CBD.
Oxford Terrace Baptist Church pastor, Chris Chamberlain, said the houses were built by a Baptist church in the late 1970s before being sold to the Christchurch City Council. They were run as social housing units.
Like most housing in the city, the units were damaged in the Canterbury earthquakes.
Last year, the council approached the church about buying them back.
Chamberlain said his church quickly decided to buy them back for a "seven-figure" sum.
All but one of the units was tenanted.
"We have, as a church, become pretty focused on housing justice in New Zealand."
In paying the council for them and still operating them as social housing units, the church was not only keeping 10 units available for social housing in the city, but also, in paying for the units, giving the council more money to invest in social housing, said Chamberlain.
The council confirmed money made from the sale was being used for social housing.
Chamberlain said the units were in desperate need of repairing and upgrading. The front door of one unit was clad in bubble wrap to try to provide insulation.
"It just seems bizarre or unacceptable that in this day and age people are having to live in houses that are not up to scratch," said Chamberlain.
Work to upgrade them had commenced.
"We've had to get a fairly large mortgage – they needed earthquake repairs. We've also done double glazing, insulation, the heat pumps, redecorated them inside and out," said Chamberlain.
The council had a "very big job on their hands" after the earthquakes in regards to its housing stock, Chamberlain said, and he hoped his church's contribution would help the city.
"To us it is not acceptable the housing situation in New Zealand is as dire as it is. We saw the opportunity to get involved and to help."