A real sense of security for people previously living in cars, or substandard housing, is being provided through a housing project initiated by a Lower Hutt church.
The project, by Koinonia Community Housing Trust, was initiated by members of St David’s Anglican Church in Naenae. It is a practical way the small church with a big heart is helping care for its community.
Five units have been built on a block of land next to St David’s that was no longer needed by a neighbouring church.
Wayne Kirkland from St David’s took the lead and project managed the development.
Its aim was to provide warm, dry, secure and affordable community housing for lower income earners.
Tenants have been chosen through various community connections.
Wayne says, “Tenants were told they could live in the units for as long as they wanted to. This has given them a real sense of security instead of living in cars, emergency housing and substandard housing.”
Making a difference
Wayne says, “There have been some “really beautiful stories about the difference it makes.”
Rents were set at the lower end of the market and tenants may also qualify for various accommodation supplements. Rents are reviewed each year and any increases are linked to the Consumers Price Index.
One of the tenants told the Daily Encourager that living there had made “a really huge difference for me.”
No state housing had been available and private rental accommodation was unaffordable in the area. So, being able to move into a brand new home with double glazing, a heat pump and a stable rent has done wonders for people’s self-esteem and taken away their anxiety.
I wake up feeling so happy every day, ” said the tenant.
Wayne says a trust was set up to own the units in order to involve other churches and individuals in the project. Koinonia (a biblical term for partnership and sharing in common) has developed its own tenancy management team who were largely from people in the local churches.
Using church land
St David’s began its foray into providing rental accommodation during 2014-2015 when it built two housing units on nearby church-owned land.
Two years later the opportunity arose to buy the former Church of Christ Hall and Manse.
As St David’s church didn’t have any money, several church members and friends loaned them the money, the site was purchased and the manse subdivided off. This was bought by a church family to use for a rental property, and they were then able to house a family there who had lost their rental because their landlord was selling it.
A building loan was sought from Christian Savings. Several of the loans were also gifted to the project.
In around 2015, at the same time as the two units were built, St David’s leadership had become increasingly concerned about the land across the road left vacant after blocks of state houses had been demolished.
Protesting for action on vacant land
By 2017, with rents continuing to skyrocket and no action across the road, St David’s church decided to protest. Their protest received national media coverage and Housing New Zealand (now called Kāinga Ora) promised to build new homes there in 2018.
In late 2017, the old hall on the Church of Christ property was demolished to make way for the five Koinonia units.
Wayne says the building cost was about $650,000 for the five units (i.e., $130,000 each).
The first tenants moved in during June 2019.
Meanwhile, Kāinga Ora asked St David’s if they could provide some form of pastoral care for the future tenants of its new complex across the road in Seddon Street.
Twenty-two new homes were completed in late 2020. St David’s already had contact with a number of people struggling to find permanent housing. They asked Kāinga Ora if they would consider some of those folk for tenants. Kāinga Ora responded positively, leading to several of those people being housed.
Over the past two years many of the Seddon Street tenants have become involved in some of the church’s activities – including the Fruit and Vege Co-operative, Te Puna Manawa (a drop-in centre) and Tumanako Hou (an alternative church gathering). These people have also been catalysts for building community within the complex.
Making people feel wanted
“All this has been a win-win arrangement and enables people to feel wanted and welcome, Wayne says.
“Kāinga Ora also built a new complex in Naenae Road but the church has had less involvement with them.”
Wayne says the Wellington Anglican diocese has also developed a policy of using any excess land for housing.
Wayne is also involved in another project at Taita where the St Matthew’s Anglican Church building will be demolished and seven units and a house will be built in its place.
The church had redeveloped its hall to become a multi-purpose worship and community centre, so no longer requires the main church building.
“The housing complex will be owned by the Anglican diocese, and rented as affordable housing, in much the same way as the Koinonia units in Naenae are,” says Wayne.
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