Ōtautahi Community Housing Trust is a “community housing provider”. That’s a title that needs some unpacking.
What’s community housing?
Community housing is housing specifically provided to ensure very low income and disadvantaged people have access to an appropriate, secure and affordable rental home. The people who live there don’t pay market rent – they pay a rate about 25% of their gross income – so living there should be more affordable than in the open rental market.
Community housing rents are often subsidised. The subsidy usually tops-up the rent paid to the community housing provider, to bring it closer to market rent. This subsidy comes from the government and/or the community housing provider itself. The government’s Income Related Rent Subsidy and the Accommodation Supplement are examples.
Community housing is at the opposite end of the housing continuum to home ownership.
What’s a community housing provider?
A Community Housing Provider provides community housing to those most in need – but there’s more to it than that.
Community housing providers are typically not-for-profit groups that focus on a particular region and that reinvest their surpluses in more community housing. Many are formally registered Community Housing Providers (CHP). They are registered with the Community Housing Regulatory Authority, which is part of the Ministry for Housing and Urban Development.
What sets a community housing provider apart?
Community housing providers and private landlords are covered by many of the same laws and regulations, but they operate in different ways.
CHRA says a private landlord chooses tenants based on their own preference; enters into a Tenancy Agreement with their tenants; lodges the bond with Tenancy Services; collects the rent; maintains the property, and applies to the Tenancy Tribunal as necessary to settle disputes. This relationship is one based on the exchange of the use of a house for the payment of rent.
A community landlord does all this but with more focus on helping their tenant get better outcomes. CHRA says community landlords help tenants feel settled in their home and more connected with their community, providing stable housing for as long as the need is there.
CHRA says the key characteristics of a good social landlord are:
- they provide a warm, safe and dry home. All ŌCHT owned and managed properties will meet or exceed standards before the end of 2021;
- they allocate housing based on need, often through the Ministry of Social Development’s Social Housing Register. All new ŌCHT tenants come from the register – you can read more about how this works here;
- they provide security of tenure or housing for the duration of a tenant’s need. ŌCHT’s specialist teams help tenants maintain sustainable tenancies;
- they help tenants find and access social support services. They help tenants engage with the services – but they don’t deliver the services, and they can’t make tenants use them. ŌCHT’s Wellbeing Advisors and Income Advisor help tenants access support, with consent;
- they are be trustworthy, fair and consistent in dealing with tenants. At ŌCHT, this is formalised in our values;
- they provide pathways to housing independence where appropriate. ŌCHT’s Wellbeing Advisors, Income Advisor and New Home Advisors help tenants prepare for their move into other accommodation when their needs change;
- they provide early intervention around rent arrears or other issues, to enable tenants to successfully manage their tenancy. ŌCHT’S Income Advisor provides early help and guidance;
- they provide information so tenants know their rights and obligations and are prepared, if and when, they enter the private rental market. ŌCHT’s Wellbeing Advisors and New Home Advisors help tenants prepare for their move when their needs change;
- they provide information to tenants about maintaining a healthy home. ŌCHT’s Wellbeing Advisors, New Home Advisors and publications provide focused advice and ŌCHT facilitates access to other social support services;
- they regularly inspect properties and, if tenants are not meeting their obligations, give them an explanation of the issue and what they can do to fix it. ŌCHT’s handypeople visit homes at least once a year to ensure the home is warm, dry and secure. Wellbeing Advisors help tenants make their house their home, and have a successful tenancy.
- they are receptive to complaints and committed to investigating them, following a well-documented process. ŌCHT publicises and sticks to a complaints process;
- they apply to the Tenancy Tribunal only as a last resort to settle disputes;
- they provide responsive and adequate property maintenance. ŌCHT has a 24/7 service and responds in a timely way to property concerns;
- they provide opportunities for tenant involvement. ŌCHT’s Tenant Advisory Group is made up of tenants and meets monthly. The group contributes to ŌCHT projects and planning, and focuses on improving tenant wellbeing and support;
- and they provide easy methods of communication with tenants. ŌCHT regularly contacts tenants by letter, email and SMS, and regularly publishes a tenant-focused newsletter. ŌCHT’s website and Facebook page is actively promoted and is home to many resources, including news and updates and ways to contact ŌCHT.
They’re still a landlord
CHPs do more than most landlords when they can, but are still bound by many of the same laws and regulations as private landlords. That means they have the same rights and responsibilities as anyone else offering rental housing.
Some of the laws they work within include:
- The Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2020: This applies to all landlords. It outlines the minimum rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants. It also establishes the Tenancy Tribunal as the place to go if something goes wrong. You can learn more about what the Tenancy Tribunal does – and its decisions – on its website.
- The Building Act: This applies to all landlords. It outlines the minimum requirements for building homes.
- Building Regulations 1992: This applies to all landlords and outlines the minimum regulatory requirements for building homes.
- The Building Code: This applies to all landlords. It carries applies the requirements of the Building Regulations.
- Housing Improvement Regulations: This applies to all landlords. It outlines the minimum requirements for renovating homes.
- Privacy Act 2020: This applies to everyone, including landlords. It outlines how private information is gathered, stored and used – and it limits what landlords can say to others about tenants and tenancies. You can read more about how the Privacy Act is enforced on the Privacy Commissioner’s website.
- Health Act 1956 : The sanitation and building health provisions apply to all landlords.
- Public and Community Housing Management Act 1992: This applies to all community housing providers. Among other things, it covers applications, assessment and rents.
- Public and Community Housing Management (Community Housing Provider) Regulations 2014: This applies to all community housing providers. It helps give effect to the Act.
Other things affecting ŌCHT
- ŌCHT does not own all the properties it manages. It leases many properties from the Christchurch City Council. The council is responsible for assessing, funding and executing planned maintenance such as reroofing, replacing and updating facilities, etc. ŌCHT is responsible for reactive maintenance – fixing things.
- ŌCHT isn’t a social service provider. It can help people find the help or services they might need, but it can’t make people access or use them. It also has to have their consent to help them get the help they might need. ŌCHT can’t assume responsibility for individual tenants, just like any other landlord.
- ŌCHT builds new homes and is governed by the same rules and regulations as any other developer. All its developments must, and do, meet the requirements of the Christchurch District Plan. The council is in charge of how the district plan is developed, interpreted and applied.
- New tenants come to ŌCHT from the Ministry of Social Development’s Social Housing Register. MSD approves the rent and determines how much a tenant will pay. You can read more about how that works on our Your rent page.