Recently we’ve had some frustrated tenants posting their frustrations on our Facebook posts and criticize our response to OCHT Facebook posts. These posts are often accompanied by naming both current and past staff from both council and the trust, something that has bothered me but I’ve let it lay mostly quietly.

Some folk pointed me at Tenancy Tribunal judgements, which was more than interesting, so tonight I thought I’d write some response to those call outs along with an update on some on going conversations I’ve had over the past year or so.


I’ve read calls to just sell the whole housing business to someone new a few times. I know how that game works and I also know it never ends well for the customers, mostly ends well for the sales folk and some times the investors, just ask rate payers about the million dollars spent to “not sell CityCare”.

As I’ve written in the past, I haven’t typically got involved in lobbying on such small projects as this. My experience and interest has been in the telecommunications industry where the companies are worth billions and have millions of customers. I’ve watched for decades as telcos buy and sell customers, build massive infrastructure, lure in new customers with hot deals then turn up the heat to drive ARPU as high as they can before either selling to a competitor, listing on the stock market or destroying the products with over subscription, leaving loyal customers who have build investment on top of networks to swim with the sharks.


I rang Bruce Rendall at CCC because I recalled that we’ve had many conversations in New Zealand about selling public housing in the past and thought he’d have a better memory for it than I do, I was right…

2021-03-16 12:03 Bruce wrote:

“Yesterday you asked about the possibility of overseas ownership / operation of social housing.

This has been considered before (eg

The council turned its mind to this matter in 2017.  While it did not formally set a policy, the below extracts from an aborted public consultation process gives some ideas of the Council’s thinking in 2017:

A Christchurch community housing provider will bring local knowledge and experience to managing the properties and assisting the tenants. A local provider will bring greater understanding of the distinctive issues in the Christchurch social housing market resulting from the earthquakes and subsequent rebuild. They will have established relationships that will help achieve results more efficiently and quickly than a new entrant to Christchurch.”


If you know anything about employment law in this country there is nothing simple about letting people go.

I loved Donald Trump in the TV series the Apprentice. Who doesn’t just love the ‘idea’ of being the big man boss and being able to shout down a big board room table “You’re Fired”… bit of irony when the American public did just that at their last election, but we’re not in the US and civic housing isn’t a TV show, it’s a community with real people, some who live in the houses, others who’s jobs it has been to keep those homes in the best state as they can even if they’re not always the best people for the job in a constantly changing market place, in a city brought to its knees by a massive earthquake just 10 years ago.

A while ago, the mayor took me aside and commented that the housing unit wasn’t all that happy. Many had moved to OCHT, some had been left behind and many weren’t as happy as anyone would like.


As I said, employment law isn’t so simple as TV shows make it look, but one thing you can do is move the business around and let people make their own choices, and that’s exactly what’s happened.

Recently the ‘major maintenance’ moved from CCC to the trust for the property with the trust. I’m told that will mean that $5 million dollars of work will translate closer to $6 million dollars of value based on historic assumptions.

While the remaining civic staff were invited to apply for new roles in the trust, none did, effectively leaving 1 in the council dealing with social housing specifically.

Some of the structures are still a bit frustrating. Stephen comments that he has 5 points of contact depending on what he needs. I see both sides of this. Give the tenant a single point of contact and all they’re going to say most of the time is “Please hold caller while I check with …” while having 5 different departments means you some times bounce from place to place to get anything done. Personally I don’t know anything about the trusts IT systems but I suspect they have a problem with a poor job work flow, queuing and reporting system.


I was directed to Tenancy Tribunal judgements, so I had a little look. The TT don’t publish all it’s history only a two or three year snapshot, but it is searchable. When I looked, there were about 167 judgements published, so I haven’t read them all.

Before I get to the detail, I’d like to point out that the OCHT social media team invited me to attend a tenants briefing a while back where tenants were introduced to a range of agencies, including the TT. The trust has a vehicle so that tenants who have a dispute can get a resolution service to support them before they go to the TT and a service that will pay the $25 dollars it costs a tenant to go to the TT. I’ve never seen anyone in the private market get that level of support to take a case against them. That’s like ringing the guy you want to sue and asking them to pay for your lawyer and them saying “sure”.

I started with a few cases brought by the trust. The common theme in those was people who had skipped rent, though there were a few bizarre ones. In one case the tenant has been sent to prison and he was being chased for the cost of changing locks as he hadn’t been able to return every key, the trust lost that one.

I quickly moved on to the cases brought against the trust, after all, this was about holding them to account not chasing down tenants for unpaid rent. I think there were 12 cases out of 167, so it didn’t take to long to review those.

The most bizarre of those was a tenant, who won $200 in the judgement, after OCHT staff and a contractor entered their unit by mistake. That judgement would have cost the trust at least $5000 because the case had to be investigated which frankly would have been time consuming and expensive.


One theme that did show through from the TT judgements is that I suspect the trust is spending at least the cost of a new unit a year just chasing rents, and that’s before I consider the cost on the state for TT staff.

I didn’t do the math and compile a detailed list of payments from the judgements, nor have I bothered to ask the trust what it’s judgement recovery rates is.

What I did note was a common theme of two staff who appear to be camped at the TT offices each week.

On holding to account, this is an issue that I raised with board members. It’s just a false economy to chase some of these funds once the tenant has moved on, in some cases to jail.

It raises the question of just writing that debt off like so many private landlords do and investing energy in providing more quality housing at a lower cost.


My review of civic housing in this city is that it’s taken a massive change in the past 5 years to the overall benefits of tenants while not directly costing rate payers more, though also not making any return for their share in civic resources, though housing people who make end up costing our community more in other ways if we demanded more return.

Stephen’s campaign to get proper heating and cooling came across the line because he personally held the trust to account by telling his story in a very public space. He shared personal information about himself and his situation that many would not have. For his efforts thousands of people got $16 million dollars allocated.

Between Stephen and myself we held the council and trust to account to deliver that work, in spite of Covid 19 lock downs, that heating made it in place for last winter.

The suggestion that this portfolio should be sold is just silly. The idea has been canvased and the correct call has been made which is in both tenant and Christchurch interests.

Following the last civic election, the OCHT board has some extremely competent civic members on it right now, people who take our calls, who we can have very frank and blunt conversations with, without fear of being hung up on and blocked from communications.

Frankly I get better response from Bruce Rendall at CCC, Bob Hardie at OCHT and elected/appointed civic board members than I’ve ever seen in the telco sector. To suggest these guys aren’t open to being held to account is just silly, they are.

Finally, Stephen and I built this website, Mr Google shares it before it shares the trusts website. I get calls and emails from the police, corrections and others looking for tenants and support, we clearly have a voice, and if a broke tenant who was living in a car and a random member of the public can get a voice so can anyone who cares to put in a sensible effort.


This is the Ōtautahi Community Housing Trust. They say they could build twice as many houses immediately if the Government made one small policy change. – Nicola Willis MP – 22 March 2021

Recently I’ve been accused of not being critical enough on OCHT. Frankly I found that accusation a bit unfair and I think there’s at least one board member who will agree…

This post on Facebook by National party housing spokes person Nicola Willis, just made my head explode.

You see, I sat with trust CEO Cate Kearney and her policy lead a while back and talked about her plan to target 100 homes a year being the limit of their capacity, now I hear it could be 200 homes but they’re just lacking the funds to do it.

This does my head in because I have every idea just how much cash there is in the market right now. I could point to half a million in private capital which could translate to $10 million with bank borrowings.

I was calling Bruce Rendall, CCC’s head of property on an other issue not long after and he was very quick to point out that the council has been working on a number of other options to help the trust secure more funding (that was the day I wished I recorded calls or simply asked for more detail via email) and I suspected he’d seen the same post from Willis and had been expecting someone’s call, if not mine.

Cr Phil Mauger is on the OCHT trust board, understands property development well and got the thick end of my tongue later in the week….

I pointed out that in the 9 months that public officials have been “dithering in process” (and please note that I don’t hold Bruce to account for this, he is but one cog in a system that is the job of elected members to control the pace of) Williams Corporation, the biggest housing developer in Christchurch by numbers, have raised $65 million in the private market and delivered over 300 new builds in city (let’s put that in perspective, two kids and their mums v’s the capacity of a council with a $13 billion dollar value).

Phil pointed out that Matthew (WC) pays significantly more for his money (10%) than OCHT/CCC. He’s right! However, Matthew’s customers don’t pay much more once the build is complete and they have keys.

In my view, the trust has become greedy and expects everything for nothing (well 0.4% while the rest of us are paying 4% and Matthew is paying 10% is just about nothing). When a chief plans a menu they understand that the spuds are cheap while the meat cut will be expensive.

CCC held an engagement meeting on the updated social housing policy draft which I attended. Bruce commented in conversation that treasury simply hadn’t allocated enough funds to meet policy demands in the CHP sector (or something like that, again, must record conversations!… that’s what real reporters do!).

My view is that government has given ‘us’ as much money as they’re going to. I suspect that the banking sector is looking at how the government has been handing out ‘free money’ via the LGA fund in direct competition to its retail business to take customers from its borrowing business to build competing assets on state land while using public funds to find the customers (the 22,400 on the social housing waiting list) and is getting more than grumpy.

Frankly the more I look at the housing market and the LGA usage, it looks like a race to the bottom with the banks winning (quite happy to take some short term losses) with private market renters taking the biggest whack as they can’t get IRRS rents and soaring property values are driving their rents through the roof.

Elected members are always very quick to point out that social housing is ‘off the rates budget’ but never venture to understand if the community would like to use its ability to develop an investment opportunity such as we’ve done with power, airports, ports and other community assets. Civic housing is currently a $325m dollar asset, and elected members are pleased that it’s “off the rates budget”, guys, it should be delivering 10% ROI (in fact much more given the land assets we have).

There’s an opportunity here for the wider community, I’ve written about this before, it’s time to stop the dithering, pick up the pace, be willing to pay for the meat, not just the spuds, and work as a whole community!

Exciting Social Housing In The North

This week Joanna and I caught up with Rhys Head from Homeco to have a look at his Iwi backed social housing project for Mana Waitaha Trust in Woodend.

Prefabricated in Homeco’s factory and assembled on site, these two and three bedroom homes are HomeStar 8 rated, ready for PV solar panels and with EV charger ready car ports.

Laminated timber from Nelson and overseas producers is prefabricated in to standardised panels. Rhys explained to us that he is keen to see a production plant for the chip wood paneling they use but first we have to establish a local market which is one of the goals for this factory.

The entire home is staged in the factory meaning that stakeholders (normally clients) can walk through the building and request changes before it’s even on the site.

The completed walls, on site, have an Energy Star rating of 8. R2.6 bats combined with a range of other materials to push the external structure to a very insulated construction with very limited internal air changes means that the heat you put into the home doesn’t escape, a concern for tenants with very limited income.

The entire home can be packed into a 20 foot shipping container. The benefit of this is creating the ability to ship the buildings around the country by rail or world by ship. These panels already have all the insulation installed.

On site, the roof is built, on the foundation slab, before the walls are delivered and then craned on to the erected walls. This means that the entire structure can be closed in within a day. The benefit is faster construction meaning lower cost while also making a nicer space for everyone to work.

Let’s Look Inside On Site

Massive amounts of storage, accessible bathroom, wide doorways for wheelchair access, power points for your EV charger, tiny heat pumps (because you just don’t need a bigger one!), large kitchens complete with dishwasher, fibre ready, high stand toilets and the most magical windows you’ve ever seen!

The double glassed windows on this build will be triple on the next construction. These windows are made from recyclable plastic so they’re warm to the touch. They open in two different ways (a video of this will be on the site next week), meaning that you can open them fully in summer when you’re home or peg them ‘ajar’ with confidence that the home is secure.

Rhys has a show room in the city with all the different building technology and construction plans on display. His passion is building homes that are kinder to people and the environment. For example you may have noticed that these social homes had car ports rather than locked up garages. He explained to me that is so that a garage doesn’t get transformed into someones ‘low quality bedroom’.

Started in July 2019 and completed to this stage by December 2019, these units are fast to build and finish which delivered a much lower cost meaning that much more value can be delivered for social housing tenants. Oh, and if you’re wondering about that plastic clip board in the top of the image, it’s not a clip board, but more about that in a future post!

All Cleaned Up – Harman Courts Front Yard

Well the good news is that the front yard clean up at Harman Courts got finished today! Yeah!

Let’s hope there aren’t to many more of these sorts of issues hiding in the wood work because they’re really expensive! They’re expensive because once they start, the rubbish just keeps pilling in as was seen at Harman Courts.

Thanks to everyone involved in following it up.

The biggest learning for CCC and OCHT from this should be that when you say you’re going to do something, give yourself enough time! If you’d said it will take 3 weeks then sure, we would have questioned why we can’t get resources sorted sooner, but saying 24 hours was likely a bit unrealistic too. 🙂

I think the biggest thought for tenants has to be that if you see someone moving out and can see they’re over whelmed with rubbish then reach out for help! The dump just isn’t that expensive, plenty of places have a free/borrow trailer and we can put the hat around for dumping fees if your stuck, we can also put the hat around for petrol money.


Earlier today Vicki Buck, OCHT board member, popped up on Facebook to offer assistance with the rubbish issue at Harman Courts.

I had a bunch of questions for Vicki as I simply don’t understand the view of the board towards social housing.

I wrote….

Hi Vicki,

I tagged you to start to raise awareness with others that you are one of 7 board members on the trust.

Frankly I see a whole pile of issues here and I don’t know what the answers are.

On one hand this rubbish has sat for months (I’m told), on the other hand has it been left their at the knowing direction of the board to send a clear public message to the rest of the tenants?

Sitting in council meetings (you were there, you saw me sitting quietly), speaking with council staff, the message comes across very clearly that there is a great amount of division around the question of a civic response to housing.…/

Speaking with Martin Pearce, Tenancy Operations Manager, on Thursday, he appeared to hold the view that hosting a rubbish dump on one of the complexes in their control, wasn’t appropriate and that they should simply take ownership and clean this mess up. However I get the clear impression that his view is not representative of the board, or perhaps the CEO would have made sure that mess was going on Friday as promised.


However there appears to be many more layers to this question than first appeared.

No sooner did some action on some part of the clean up get under way, I got another ping from a resident about three more quite reasonable issues at the same complex. Needless to say I’ve now got the message that I really need to do a site visit and have a look, perhaps you’d like to join me?


From a governance point of view, I actually don’t know what the boards view is, and I’d like to.

If you want to make phone calls and follow something up, perhaps you’d like to call me and get me on the same page as the board around expectations – my number is 0211140699

At present there is less than 70% of the housing stock open according to information provided to election candidates.

Board members tell me they’re pleased with a $700,000+ saving on maintenance, but the same time it would appear (if I’m to believe tenants) that this has come about by simply not doing maintenance.


39% percent of tenants report being cold (according to the trusts own published survey), so getting a funding allocation for heating seemed like a great idea.

However, a month after that was approved by council, I’m told by Martin that there is still no program of work and that we should expect to wait until at least Christmas to see a program. By the time we take out the holidays, that will leave just over two months to install 930 heating systems.

If it takes 4 months just to make a plan, it’s going to take longer than 12 months to install!


Finally, while I do PM from time to time, this is an issue that needs to be in the public domain. Others may choose to moderate my views, some may choose to endorse them. We should remember that I am not a tenant.

I am simply a member of the public who sees a $273 million dollar civic asset (assuming an average value of $100,000 per unit) not making a return to the civic and providing a very poor level of service to its customers.

I see $6.6m dollars of lost revenue per year as well. At the same time civic is asking me to pay over 5% more rates this year.

How Do You Clean Up Rubbish?!

As of this afternoon there is still rubbish sitting in the front yard at 85 Poulson Street. Apparently the small stuff has gone, which is a start, but the big stuff is still there and this just isn’t good enough!

We’d be happy enough if a commitment had been made for next week, but the commitment was made for today, so we expect the work completed by today.

So much talk about mental health issues in this city. Well this is the sort of thing that just drives them. Social houses have the ‘edge case’ of society in them and they’re often most at risk of health deterioration.

Leaving this waste there is potentially expensive! On the living wage, a couple of guys to move this stuff will cost less than $200. However a doctor costs way more than that if this becomes a final straw.

It just doesn’t look like a big issue, but it’s this small stuff that makes a difference. Earlier in the year I did over 150 Snap Send Solve tickets in my immediate area and it just made a massive impact on how our part of the suburb presented.