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Solid progress in getting the basics right

Housing New Zealand has made solid and tangible progress over the last year, Chief Executive Glen Sowry says.

Commenting on the release of the 2013-14 Annual Report, Mr Sowry says he is extremely proud of the achievements of Housing New Zealand over the past financial year and in particular, on ‘getting the basics’ right in the core areas of tenancy and asset management.

It also made significant progress in ensuring its state houses are located and built in the areas where they were needed most.

“Our results show real progress. Not only did we house more families (8,235 compared with 6,960 in the previous year), but through continued focus and commitment from staff, we helped more of our tenants stay out of debt and sustain their tenancies. We supported tenants who fell behind with their rent payments and as a result, reduced the number of tenants in rent and damage debt by 13 percent.’’

A key performance measure for any landlord is the amount of debt as a percentage of monthly rental income. Housing New Zealand reduced this to 4 percent against a target of 7 percent.

Since 2011 we have stated that around one third of our housing stock is in the wrong place, wrong configuration or is mismatched with future demand. We are working to address this through the asset management strategy

Tangible gains were made in meeting demand, especially in the Auckland and Christchurch areas.

New developments in both of those cities, where demand is highest, meant Housing New Zealand was making great progress providing housing in areas where it is needed most.

While many of our properties meet the current needs of our tenants, it is important to note there is a constantly rising demand for housing in Auckland and Christchurch and an undersupply of housing in those areas.

The table on page 12 of the Housing New Zealand Annual Report 2014/15 released earlier today could be incorrectly interpreted.  Although our Annual Report shows many of our properties are located in the right place, line item labelled “Housing New Zealand properties meet the needs of applicants and tenants”  it is important to note that this measure was based on tenants telling us they are comfortable with their current location in terms of the town they live in.

This doesn’t change the fact that demand is generally lower in some areas and higher in others or the houses are too large or small.

We are addressing the undersupply issue with thousands of new homes either being built or poised to be built in both of those areas.

Customer satisfaction was also high this year, with the proportion customers satisfied with maintenance and their interactions with the Customer Services Centre at 85 percent.

Asset management also improved across a number of key metrics.  There were 5,652 whole of house upgrades completed on tenanted properties, 1,150 more than target. This work included new kitchens and bathrooms, carpet, curtains and interior or exterior decoration on Housing New Zealand’s properties.

Housing New Zealand was also more responsive when carrying out urgent repairs on its properties and as a result reduced the average response time. These are repairs that have an immediate effect on the health and safety of tenants.

The time a property remains vacant between tenancies also reduced to 50 days. This was a significant improvement from 72 days at the start of the year.

Housing New Zealand has subsequently achieved its target of 45 days and is now consistently achieving turnaround times of 30 days. This is a critical measurement for Housing New Zealand as it means it can house people in need more quickly.

Another area where Housing New Zealand made good progress was the management of vacant properties reducing the number of properties that sat vacant from 3,385 to 2,594 and further reducing this number is a key priority.

Housing New Zealand again made a significant contribution to the economic recovery of the Canterbury region in a number of key areas. Housing New Zealand now has more than 750 tradespeople working in some capacity on either repairing earth-quake damaged properties or on its new build programme.  While outside the reporting period, the repair programme recently passed a significant milestone with more than 2,500 properties now repaired.

The build programme in Canterbury also gained momentum with 42 new homes added to the rental pool and more than 400 more currently either contracted or under construction.

According to Mr Sowry, the focus on getting the basics right ensures that Housing New Zealand is well placed for the future where it will be one of many providers of social housing to those in greatest need.

Tags: housing new zealand

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