3 June 2020
Chief Executive’s Letter to Tenants of Ōtautahi Community Housing Trust
On behalf of everyone at OCHT, thanks again for helping New Zealand stick to the COVID-19 rules. New Zealand has flattened the COVID-19 curve but we must continue to follow public health guidance – wash our hands, sneeze into our elbows, stay at home if unwell, and if you have any symptoms of COVID or seasonal illness, please call you doctor or the COVID-19 helpline – 0800 779 997.
On Monday 25 May, the government announced we will remain at Level Two for up to four weeks but gatherings could increase in number, to 100. Today, 3 June, after 12 days without a new case of COVID-19, the government tells us that on Monday 8 June they will reconsider moving to Level One, and if the health information remains positive, New Zealand may move to Level One on 10 June.
This letter provides an update on OCHT services in Level Two, and a few things that some tenants have raised with our team.
Heat Pump Installations
OCHT’s Warm & Dry team and contractors are installing heat pumps between now and August 2020.
To make up for the four-week lockdown, we are focusing on the 909 priority homes first (our coldest homes), and then we will come back and install heat pumps in the rest of the complex. We really want to get those homes as warm as possible by winter. All but two complexes will have heat pumps by the end of July, and the last two complex installations will be completed in early August. We really appreciate your patience. You can follow our progress on Facebook @otautahicommunityhousingtrust
Ventilation and Draft Stopping
Stage Two of the Warm & Dry Initiative, a joint OCHT and Christchurch City Council project, is restarting. Our team is checking ventilation and draft stopping requirements in OCHT homes. Ventilation installations will start again in June and draught stopping where needed will start in July.
OCHT Rent Streams
A number of you have asked about the different rent assistance that is available for our tenants. There are two different rental assistance streams: one is the Assisted Rental, (tenancy agreements that pre-date OCHT and were between a tenant and Council); the second is an Income Related Rent subsidy. Some tenants receiving Assisted Rent support have raised the issue about the difference between the two as they pay more than tenants on the MSD Income Related Rent. OCHT has approached the government and asked them to consider changing the current system so that all tenants could access the Income Related Rent, which would help those who were in Council tenancies when OCHT was established in 2016. Unfortunately, the response from the government was that a change in the policy is unlikely. Please be assured that we will continue to advocate at every opportunity for a change in this policy. If you are on an Assisted Rental tenancy, please talk with MSD to make sure you can access the accommodation supplement if you meet their criteria.
Some Assisted Rental stream tenants have asked our team if their rent will go up now that they have had a new heat pump installed? OCHT has committed to an annual rent review for Assisted Rentals and generally increases the rent on 1 July each year. However, in March this year the Government announced a residential rent freeze that is in place until September 2020. OCHT will advise you in July if we are considering a rent increase.
As well as upgrading your homes with heating and ventilation, OCHT is building new homes. We have listened to your concerns that your homes have not always aged well. As we progressed our building specifications, we checked with OCHT’s Tenant Advisory Group (TAG) on design and quality of these homes. As well as thinking hard about specifications, new homes will be accredited as New Zealand Green Building Council Homestar 6. A 6 Homestar rating or higher means a home is easier and more cost effective to keep warm, dry, healthy, and more environmentally friendly than a typical new house.
OCHT undertakes minor maintenance and ground care around your homes and complexes. Earlier this year some media coverage suggested that OCHT has reduced the level of maintenance to make savings. In fact, we have achieved savings through efficiencies, not a reduction in service and we are completing more minor maintenance than two years ago. Because we are a small organisation, our procurement and inhouse teams are efficient, and if we do not spend the annual budget, it is re-invested into planned works on our homes. We are absolutely committed to bringing homes up to a better standard. OCHT and Council have started this with the installation of heat pumps to improve warmth and overall health and comfort of our tenants.
Look Out for Your Neighbours
During this time, it is really important that you let us know if you are worried about a neighbour. For example, if you don’t see their lights on when they normally would be, please let us know.
Wishing you all the best from everyone here at OCHT and remember, we are happy to answer your questions. Call us on 0800 624 456. OCHT will write to you again when we move to Level One.
Thank you and take care.
OCHT Services in Alert Level 2
The OCHT office is open from 8.30 – 5.00 pm. The call centre operates 24/7. Visitors to the office will sign a contact tracing form. Please do not come to the office if you are unwell.
Ordinary maintenance continues. Please stay two metres away from contractors or go into another room in your home until they are finished. This is for your well-being and theirs.
OCHT Lawns and Common Garden Areas
Outdoor work around complexes continues as usual. Please stay two metres away at all times.
OCHT Housing People
Full steam ahead! Please welcome your new neighbours when you see them around your complex.
OCHT Community Activities and Lounges
BBQs and other community activities are paused. Lounges remain closed. OCHT will review in two weeks.