Celebrating 30 years of CORT
2017 marked 30 years since CORT Community Housing began as an impulsive church project. CORT has now grown to become one of New Zealand’s significant social housing providers.
To celebrate this milestone, CORT invited its stakeholders to a number of events over the course of a month.
The annual tenant dinner saw the Ponsonby Baptist church hall transformed, adorned with fairy lights and foliage hanging from the ceiling, to create a special, celebratory atmosphere. The meal, usually a casual roast, was instead a full sit down dinner. The church hall was bursting at the seams with tenants, church members and CORT staff celebrating.
Members of the church, CORT Trustees and staff members past and present were invited on a bus trip to view some of CORT’s new and upcoming developments. As the number of attendees reached capacity well before the event two mini vans were booked to take those that could not fit on the bus. The first stop was the McLennan Park development which had broken ground earlier that week and will be home to 14 households. The bus then made its way to the now established Waimahia Inlet where CORT has 21 homes and will be taking on a further 4 properties in the final stage of this development.
A celebration BBQ was also organised at the newest CORT property in New Lynn. Neighbours of the property were invited, as well as CORT staff, trustees and the then associate minister of housing – Alfred Ngaro.
Additionally, CORT’s 30 year journey has been captured and published in CORT Community Housing: 30 years. It outlines the various approaches the trust has taken to provide homes for people who need them most. This publication continues the story started in Community of Refuge: A history of the Community of Refuge Trust published in 2005.
How we started
The Community of Refuge Trust was founded in 1987 by Auckland’s Ponsonby Baptist Church in response to the housing needs of people on low incomes in its local area. Wanting to demonstrate the Christian value of ‘loving your neighbour’ in a practical way they created Community of Refuge Trust (CORT), a not-for-profit charitable housing trust. The name Community of Refuge came from the congregation, in acknowledgement that many of us at some time in our lives will need a place of refuge, a place that is safe – a place to call home.
The trust operates independently of the church and is governed by its own board of trustees. It was initially heavily dependent on volunteers and fundraising and a few staff to carry out its work. However, such was the passion and enthusiasm of the fledgling organisation that it survived and flourished to grow into its present form as a leader in the field of affordable social housing.
The years between 1992 and 1999 saw radical changes in society. There were tougher times, Ruthonomics and a government pushing a market model, all of which forced the fledgling trust to adopt a more professional model of service provision. This included enhanced reporting, accountability to stakeholders, specialist staff training, policy development, and financial audits.
By 2000, CORT had become a more robust organisation with a more tactical focus. With support from the council, CORT made the significant purchase of 15 Freemans Bay council flats. Partnering initially with Housing New Zealand through its Housing Innovation Fund and later the Social Housing Unit (SHU) CORT purchased additional housing stock. In 2006, CORT received funding from the Auckland District Health Board (ADHB) to assist with the housing of people with mental health disabilities.
CORT has grown significantly since 2006 to the present with the number of properties it owns increasing from 50 to 143. In 2006, it began renting additional properties from the private market and subletting the properties to eligible tenants. This enabled CORT to extend its services even further. It now offers safe, affordable homes to 250 households on a low income.
In 2009, the National Government introduced the Social Housing Reform programme. This reviewed the means by which the Government provides social housing in New Zealand. The result was the removal of the Government social housing policy function from Housing NZ, recognition and support for the growth of community housing sector and the proposed introduction of regulation and tenant income-related funding in 2014.
In recent years CORT Community Housing has continued to seek ways to offer more affordable housing. New housing developments at Mt Wellington Highway, Lynton Road, Princes Street and Waimahia Inlet are proof-positive of the ability of the Community Housing Sector to deliver excellent housing outcomes in a range of communities. CORT Community Housing trustees remain excited about the prospect of responding to the new challenges and opportunities provided by the Government’s response to the Auckland Housing crisis.
For a more complete history of CORT’s early years please refer to Community of Refuge – A History of the Community of Refuge Trust, by Margaret McClure, 2005. Copies are available from CORT’s office.
Ponsonby Baptist Church
CORT Community Housing has a strong community focus and we enjoy a supportive relationship with Ponsonby Baptist Church. Together, we host successful BBQ and movie nights (during the winter months) that regularly attract over 50 tenants.
CORT Community Housing’s mid-year dinner attracts over 100 tenants and provides a great opportunity to enjoy food and entertainment and to socialise with others.