I just wanted to update you on recent progress with the new Social Housing funds that were launched on 25 October 2011, and where to next for us.
The Niche fund, which closed on 5 December 2011, attracted a strong response from social and affordable housing providers. More than 30 applications were received for the $5 million fund, and these are now being evaluated. We are still on track to let applicants know whether your applications were successful just before Christmas, with agreements being finalised in the New Year.
Applications have first been checked for eligibility. This included a detailed financial evaluation, by a firm that specialises in financial services and social housing.
We are now evaluating the eligible applications as follows:
Each part of the evaluation will be done separately, and so the outcome in one area will not influence other parts of the evaluation. The same process will be used to evaluate applications for the Māori and Rural funds, which close next week.
It will be my responsibility as Director to make the final decisions, based on the various evaluation reports. The funding available ($5 million for the Niche Fund) will be directed towards those projects that will best meet the Government’s desired outcomes for social and affordable housing.
We’ve been encouraged by the positive feedback we’ve received from you about this approach – that is, where we look to you as providers to come up with how best to deliver the outcomes the Government is seeking, rather than us telling you.
The next funds to close are the Māori Fund, Pūtea Māori, and the Rural Fund, Pūtea Taiwhenua, which close on 19 December 2011.
The Growth fund, Pūtea Whakatipu, will close on 27 January 2012.
As soon as the funding decisions have been made, we are keen to work closely with you to support your work.
As each funding round is completed, we will be able to give applicants specific feedback about your proposals, so you are in a better position to apply for funding next year.
We also expect to meet and work with providers, especially those of you who just missed out or have good proposals, to give feedback and advice. And as we build our knowledge of the sector, we’ll be able to put you in contact with others who can help.
We will also ask you for feedback about the approach we’ve taken to this year’s funding, and any changes you think we should consider for the future.
The Social Housing Reform Programme, which is led by the Department of Building and Housing, is looking to Ministers for decisions on the extent and pace of the reform programme for the sector, early in 2012.
The Social Housing Unit, which was set up as part of the reform programme, is also due to prepare a Social Housing Investment Plan in 2012. The Plan will discuss how the key mechanisms for growing the non-Government social and affordable housing sector, which are funding and stock transfers, could be used in the future.
In terms of funding, we’ll be using the lessons from this year, your feedback from the forums in October/November and your comments on the current funding rounds, to shape the recommendations to Ministers.
The stock transfer component will discuss initially what surplus land could be used for social housing, how fast and on what basis.
This work will help to define what social and affordable housing is subsidised by the Government in the future, what the requirements will be for housing providers, and how the Unit can work with other important stakeholders, such as financial and construction companies, as well as with you as housing providers, to support the future growth of the sector.
By the way, you may have heard that my appointment as the permanent Director for the Social Housing Unit was confirmed last week. I have been acting in the role since August, and I’m excited at the prospect of continuing to work with you in this vital sector. I feel very passionate about this work, and confident that together we can make a very important contribution.
Best wishes for the Christmas season, and we look forward to working with you in 2012.