Dwell Housing and Ark Trust work together

Sep 14, 2017 | Member profiles

Dwell Housing Trust Chief Executive Alison Cadman, and Wadestown Ark Trust’s Dr Brian Ensor celebrate Dwell’s acquisition of five church homes in Wadestown, Wellington.

Ownership of five homes built in the early 1980s by the Wadestown Ark Trust was transferred in late June to Dwell Housing Trust.

The Ark Trust was originally established by the Wadestown Presbyterian Church, Wellington, in partnership with its neighbouring Anglican congregation, to provide affordable accommodation in the area.

The ownership transfer was required as the small Trust Board struggled to find the human resources within the churches to take on the responsibility for the homes, while changes to retirement village law and compliance requirements also impacted on how the accommodation was managed. Working with Dwell was seen as a solution that would preserve the Ark Trust’s intent and offer security of tenure for residents.

The Ark Trust considered Dwell to be a “good fit”, says Ark trustee Dr Brian Ensor, and Dwell Housing Trust believed working with Wadestown Ark Trust helped it focus on its ‘More Homes’ goal.

Brian is director of Palliative Care at Wellington’s Mary Potter Hospice and is married to Rev Sharon Ross Ensor, former minister of Wadestown Presbyterian Church and current director of the Presbyterian Church Schools’ Resource Office.

He said the Trust was advised by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment in 2015 that the housing units in their current form would come under the Retirement Villages Act 2003 and would need to be registered as a retirement village.

“They supported us in our plans to reshape the housing so that we would not need to register. What was being provided was closer to social housing, and by agreeing to unit titling and conversion to shared ownership, we reached a better situation.

“It has taken over two years of work to see this through,” he said.

The five homes were finally acquired by Dwell on 30 June 2017. Two of the five units will be part of Dwell’s shared home ownership programme, which allows residents to change their license to occupy into an ownership agreement. As residents couldn’t afford to buy the homes outright, the shared ownership arrangement means they could obtain ownership and remain in their homes.

A further two homes will become affordable rentals, and the other one will be available to an individual or couple from the government’s social housing register.

While Dwell does manage homes for various groups and works with churches in other ways, this is the first project of its type for the organisation.

“We are more than a landlord,” says Dwell Housing Trust Chief Executive, Alison Cadman. “We ensure our tenants have access to the support they need. We believe that affordable, stable and healthy housing is a fundamental right.”

Her view was echoed by Brian, who said the Church had a strong sense of the importance of community, and of being able to maintain oneself through life as a part of a community.

“The provision of housing that is not expensive, that is small enough to be individual, and sited on accessible land, enables this.”

A similar initiative in the South Island has linked Presbyterian Support Otago with the Dunedin City Council to help provide transitional housing.

Presbyterian Support Otago Chief Executive Gillian Bremner says her organisation had been involved in social housing for some time. It is a registered community housing provider through its Just Housings Trust, which has four social housing units on land subdivided from Wakari Presbyterian Church around 10 years ago.

“We are now in discussions with the Dunedin City Council to lease six bedsits of unoccupied council housing to add to the social housing mix,” she says. “It is targeted at those requiring transitional housing for up to six months, with additional social work support.

“Through our Family Works welfare service, we have been aware for some time of the increasing unmet demand for housing for clients considered homeless – either living in cars or bunking with friends or relatives in crowded conditions.”

She said the six bedsits coming on stream through co-operation with the Dunedin City Council were being refurbished and should be ready for occupation in spring.

Reprinted with permission from Spanz, the magazine of the Presbyterian Church of Aotrearoa New Zealand, spring 2017.

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