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!

Weekly Update #4 – Waiting and Mailing Lists

I have now installed a forms feature on the site which now lets us start to collect information.

I can see reason for two different lists

MAILING LIST

Not everyone who’s interested in social housing wants to be checking in on Facebook or the web site, so a mailing list is important.

I’m also keen to understand as much about people interesting in social housing, as I can. So I’m going to propose a mailing list that also lets you tell us a bit about yourself, or not! πŸ™‚

WAITING LIST

In last years, last council meeting, we heard that there are 830 people on the social housing waiting list, but who are you? What are you looking for, what is your situation and where do you want to live?

So I’m proposing we’ll collect the following, or as much as you choose to share with us.

  • Name
  • Email address
  • Phone number

All of these will be optional… actually everything will be optional.

My plan is that I’ll simply qualify the quality of interest based on the level of information provided. Clearly someone who wants to give you all their information is serious about wanting something.

  • Required Bedrooms
  • Required Beds – we don’t assume that people need or want a bedroom each, but we want to know how many people you want to have living in a space.
  • Current suburb – we don’t know where you actually live, we’d just like to know where your community is.
  • Desired suburb – we assume that people have been moved around as a result of the earthquakes so we’d like to know where you’d like to live
  • Schooling – do you need to be close to a school?
  • Public Transport – do you need to be close to it?
  • Work Suburb – we want to understand where you need to travel to.
  • Drug use – this one’s quite important. Right now CCC have units that people have used drugs in, they simply need cleaning. The government standards have changed and for some people, they’d sooner have a more affordable home than where they are, so there is a case to argue that these units should be made available.
  • About you – age range, gender, health – if you’re 85 and in poor health then you need higher quality housing than I do. Double rather than single glassing and better heating, for example.
  • Current housing – we’re keen to understand people who are couch surfing, those who are simply unhappy with private accommodation or other reasons
  • Reason for your interest – as above, we’d like to know why you want social housing. We understand that in some causes what people really want is help to improve their situation but just don’t know where to reach. In this journey so far, Stephen and I have learnt a lot about services we didn’t know existed.

I’ll be posting this on Facebook, so I’m keen to hear your comments before we set this alight! πŸ™‚

How Much Can I Borrow?

When you’re thinking about buying a home the question at the top of your mind is how much can you borrow and then how much should you borrow.

When you’re thinking about buying an investment property the only thing you’re thinking about is how much you can borrow.

The difference is because when you’re renting something out you’re earning money on the money you’ve borrowed, when you’re buying for yourself you’re just paying for what you’re living in so you want to consider the balance between lifestyle and paying down debt and growing equity.

This year I’ve spent a bit of time hanging out with the Williams Corporation team at their investment buyer evenings (I think I’ve been to three now!). One thing they point out is the value of borrowing as much money as you can because you can earn money on the banks money.

LVR rules mean you need at least 20% deposit for a new build unless you’re a first time home buyer and leveraging your Kiwisaver…. the council isn’t buying it’s first home.

The current rateable value of our social housing stock is over $325 million dollars so I’m keen to get busy and borrow some… how about $1.3 billion dollars?

On Sunday I had an interesting conversation with Anne Galloway, the city councilor for Halswell. Like many, she goes to pains to point out that we can’t fund social housing from rates. Frankly I’m at a bit of a loss why people keep prattling this comment and am feeling a bit white washed. I can’t help feeling that this whole social housing thing is a bit like an episode of “Yes Minister” and we’re all being played.

Not only should social housing not be funded from rates but it should also bring our city a large return.

I did some quick math…

I wondered how many units we could build if we borrowed everything we could and just asked Williams Corp to build for us (at their published book value). Of course we wouldn’t ask then to build at book value and we already have the free land, so we can’t factor that. So I pondered how many we could build if I took the current average unit value, but of course that number is no good either because it looks very much like most of our stock is over valued in the market given what we should be able to build for currently (though don’t tell the bank that because I want to use my existing stock to secure the loans!)

I decided that I should just factor the Williams Corp price, the current rent, cost of borrowings at councils 2.5% and as much money as I could borrow and figured out that we should earn $19.5m a year. That fixes the problem of finding funds to run the stadium!

Ok, so these are just scatter gun numbers because it leaves out so much information and makes to many assumptions, but it does make me wonder why we’re messing about and not getting busy with a massive building program to at least get us another 1,000 homes build withing the next 18 months!

https://www.ccc.govt.nz/assets/Documents/The-Council/Request-information/2017/LGOIMA-State-Housing.pdf

In the mean time my wife flicked me a pdf link that she’d found while looking for something else, which is just full of enlightening reading. At first I was wondering what the heck it was all about but then it occurred that this isn’t just economic, it’s political too!

The council has been moving housing into a trust because it wants to be able to claim government assistance for tenants while giving the tenants lower rents. But council also has the ability to raise massive amounts of capital and the tax payer is paying the bill.

I haven’t read all the detail, but clearly lawyers at The Treasury are interested.

The other numbers I also considered is how quickly the council can pay off its borrowings. Our council is already very wealthy, Raf Manji expressed recently that CCC is worth $13b dollars.

I’m sure it’s an issue for some that growing our housing stock means growing the wealth of our council and currently we have an increasingly wealthy and powerful council.

I can’t help wondering how much of this is all about improving the quality of housing in our city and country v’s more scrapping about who’s budget stuff goes on… hummm…. those who know me know just how bothered I get about that issue!

D

How Are Elected Officials Informed?

OCHT Provided More Numbers! πŸ™‚

This afternoon I got an email back from Bob Hardie, Senior Housing Advisor, Ōtautahi Community Housing Trust and then followed up with a quick phone call.

Stephen McPaike picked up that this list has units listed that were not in the spreadsheet that came from CCC last week (that was part of an information request by a candidate during the election process).

The question all this presents is, who actually knows how much social housing Christchurch has and how do elected members become informed?

Bob commented that they don’t report back to CCC, which is quite reasonable, and it occurred to me if OCHT are this willing to provide me with information then clearly they would do the same for CCC if they asked, it’s not like a count of housing is a secret!

I like Bob, he was easy to chat to and very informative.

I also asked about closed units and how long they stay closed. Bob explained that they aim for between 11 and 15 days, which I expressed is very reasonable. When I’ve turned over rentals in the past it can take a few weeks to clean things up and get them to a level you want to present.

Bob also explained that the trust has been trying to raise the level of quality in the unit stock as they turn them over, also seems very reasonable…. actually there wasn’t anything in our brief 10 minute conversation that I didn’t find reasonable.

We also talked about how the open and closed units are quite fluid as tenants change and that drug use in the units is one of the biggest challenges. That last one I can personally relate with having done a couple of meth decontamination’s.

So, while a very helpful conversation, I’m now left with more questions than I started with and pondering how elected officials can be expected to make planning choices when no one seems to have the full picture.

However, on balance, I also think we shouldn’t get alarmed about this as we have some reasonable rough idea and everyone seems to agree that we need more social housing. The only thing we don’t seem to agree on right now is if we’re moving fast enough and how we might move faster.