Reduced income and increasing unemployment caused by Covid-19 are expected to deepen the housing plight for many Kiwis, adding to the demand for affordable and healthy homes.

In February this year there were nearly 16,000 people waiting for social housing, with almost 910 Christchurch households urgently needing a house even before the pandemic rocked the economy.

CMM’s voice is among those calling for more investment to transform the lives of people living in temporary or substandard housing, an area of work the organisation has been focused on for several years.

Executive Director Jill Hawkey notes that CMM has been responding to the housing crisis in various ways, from leading the Housing First initiative, providing transitional housing in Christchurch and Blenheim for families who find themselves homeless, and gradually building long-term housing.

“With the exception of Housing First where the majority of tenants are single people, CMM’s focus is on housing low income families and older people without assets,” says Jill.

Consent was granted in March for a new housing development at the site of the former Churchill Courts home in Guild Street, Richmond, on land that is being leased for the next 34 years from Anglican Care.

The national lockdown initially interrupted construction, but the drop to Alert Level 3 in late April permitted ground preparations to begin. With work about to commence, a small group of seven people gathered at the Guild Street site for the blessing of the land led by Pihopa Richard Wallace, the Bishop of Te Waipounamu for the Anglican Church.

“The development will provide 15 families with the security of a warm and affordable permanent house to call home,” Jill says.

“Nothing makes as much difference to children than a warm, safe place to call home and where memories can be created. For families caught in the housing crisis, this development will bring the certainty and stability they need.”

CMM purchased 16 relocatable houses which were previously used by people having their earthquake repairs done: two 2-bedroom, twelve 3-bedroom and two 4-bedroom homes.

But CMM has a commitment to “building community, not just houses” and has included a community house in the development to provide a place for neighbours to gather and to promote community building. The Methodist Church of New Zealand’s Central South Island Synod have made a significant grant towards the Community House.

“All the families which will be housed in Guild Street during the summer are either currently homeless, in transitional housing or in housing that is totally unsuitable for their needs,” says Jill.