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Charities expand into social housing development

A Christchurch social housing development worth nearly $50 million has opened its first units.

The eight independent one-bedroom units are the first of 60 units in a programme aimed at housing the city’s most vulnerable, including those with mental health and addiction issues.

The housing complex is run by mental health and addiction support charity Comcare and is the first of several housing schemes launched by local charities, which have plans to build more than 150 units in the next three years.

Comcare chief executive Kay Fletcher said investing in housing, and on this scale, was a significant shift in the agency’s work , but would improve its clients’ quality of life and wellbeing.

The development has so far received $21 million from the government and $10 million from the Canterbury Community Trust’s (CCT) social infrastructure fund.

CCT trustee Sue McKenzie said it was part of a change in thinking post-quakes.

“We had to push boundaries and throw out the old ways of doing things.”

The CCT already has plans to fund another 126 units next year,

McKenzie said the trust needed long-term objectives to ensure the business model was sustainable and the houses were maintained.

The units are opening at a time when the future of Christchurch’s social housing is uncertain.

The Social Housing Accord announced mid-April by the city’s deputy mayor Vicki Buck had been called unaffordable by Raf Manji, the council’s finance chairman.

The proposal would have required $50 million dollars from the council’s investment arm Christchurch City Holdings Limited, and a further $75 million from the government.

Earlier this month, Manji suggested that the council should no longer be a social housing provider.

The council’s current housing stock could earn the city nearly $350 million if sold.

_Michael Cropp