21 Mar 2017

Social housing project on market after just a year

7:02 am on 21 March 2017

Australian community housing providers are eyeing up one of New Zealand's largest social housing projects, which is on the market just a year after it was set up.

Part of a housing development in the Tamaki area in Auckland.

The Tamaki Redevelopment Company has only owned the 2800 houses up for sale for a year. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

The part-government-owned Tamaki Redevelopment Company is selling its tenancy arm, Tamaki Housing Association, which manages nearly 2800 homes. The houses themselves will remain owned by the company.

Local housing providers said they were interested in purchasing the company but worried they could miss out to a large overseas operator.

Tamaki Housing Association took over as landlord of the Housing New Zealand properties last March.

Its owner, Tamaki Redevelopment Company, jointly owned by Auckland Council and government, has now called for expressions of interest for acquiring the tenancy management service.

Canberra-based community housing network PowerHousing Australia said some of its members were interested in partnerships with New Zealand providers.

PowerHousing chief executive Nicholas Proud said he had been spoken to the New Zealand government about taking over state housing or transfer housing for several years and had meetings here three weeks ago.

"They [Australian providers] would look to invest there to grow a business there in conjunction with a partner, or partners, if that was determined to be something that they wanted to pursue," Mr Proud said.

"So it would be entirely in the hands of those community housing providers themselves."

Making a profit was not the motivation for Australian providers wanting to invest in New Zealand, Mr Proud said. They wanted to help grow the sector and improve the lives of tenants.

"It's such a small scale [that] it wouldn't be a significant profit," Mr Proud said.

New Zealand-registered Compass Housing Services and the UK-based Pinnacle Housing, which has pitched for state housing here, did not respond to a request for comment.

Gold Coast-based Horizon Housing said while it remained "very interested in open dialogue with local providers in other territories, at this stage they have nothing to contribute to this particular story".

Local housing providers said they should run Tamaki Housing Association and ensure any profits are reinvested here.

Auckland Community Housing Association chair James Widgery said local providers had proved they could handle large-scale projects.

"I think as New Zealanders we know our people really well and I guess my preference would be wherever possible that we continue to support our own," Mr Widgery said.

"We can deliver as well as anyone globally and I think we've proved ourselves with some very successful models here in the community housing sector."

Community Housing Aotearoa chief executive Scott Figenshow said Tamaki Housing Association was only a year old and it should not be for sale.

"Wouldn't it be better to put that same effort into growing the additional supply rather than trying to repackage this currently reasonably well operating entity?" Mr Figenshow said.

Tenants should have a say on who would be their next landlord, he said.

"Where is the opportunity for the Tamaki resident, the Tamaki tenant, to say whether Organisation A or B or C can deliver a fantastic outcome in their community?

"They've just been through a big change from Housing New Zealand to Tamaki Housing Association," Mr Figenshow said.

But Tamaki Redvelopment Company chief executive John Holyoake said tenants would not have a say in the process.

Mr Holyoake said there was nothing to stop overseas operators pitching for the business.

The "alignment with our values and principles" was more important than where they were based, he said.

"The landlord that we're talking about remains the Tamaki Housing Association," Mr Holyoake said.

"What we are looking for [is] a governance and leadership from an organisation to come in and support that.

"A number of the community housing providers have already been involved in similar processes in Auckland and Tauranga. They haven't been successful to date but there's nothing precluding them from registering their interest and going through the process."

Interested parties did not necessarily need to currently have tenancy management operations or hold registered community housing provider status, he said.

There was opportunity to make money out of the business but any of the organisations tended to have charitable status and they reinvested money back into the communities, he said.

When asked if the company would require an overseas organisation to reinvest in New Zealand, he said he would like to see that happen.

"I think the nature of these organisations is that it is normally their operating model. We're not going to be partnering with a purely profit-driven private organisation," he said.

Expressions of interest close on 6 April and the Tamaki Housing Association was likely to be transferred in about a year.