22 Sep 2015

Minister keen to help housing trust

12:38 pm on 22 September 2015

Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett says she could consider a law change to help a Far North trust keep its charitable status.

Ricky Houghton in front of the affordable housing project, Whare Ora.

He Korowai Trust manager Ricky Houghton in front of the charity's affordable housing project, Whare Ora. Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

He Korowai Trust has been buying old Auckland state houses, and renovating them for homeless families in Kaitaia.

But Internal Affairs says if the families are allowed to own them, the trust could lose its charitable status.

The trust's manager, Ricky Houghton, told Morning Report it had to be a registered charity to secure grants from the Lotteries Commission and other funders.

National MP Paula Bennett during caucas run April 2015.

Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Ms Bennett said she really admired the trust's work and she wanted to work with it to help sort out the situation.

"I'm more than happy to have another look at the legislation, I've certainly had a lot of advice about it because I am concerned about the social housing reform programme, and home ownership should be one of them.

"There is plenty of evidence that building assets for those who have been disadvantaged for generations can literally change families.

"At the very least I can write to Lotteries and the trusts out there and say, could they please look at part of their criteria being community housing providers that are registered."

Ms Bennett said changes were being made to tax exemptions, so the trust should be fine for tax purposes.

Phil Twyford during caucas run 5/5/15

Labour MP Phil Twyford Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Labour's housing spokeperson, Phil Twyford, said he did not know why the government had been so slow on the matter.

"I don't know why they didn't change the law two years ago. They've tried, they've mucked around and they've failed, and community housing organisations have really had a gutsful."

Internal Affairs said, even if there proved to be significant personal benefit in the work the trust did, it would not deregister it straight away.

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