KiwiSaver funds bankroll community housing

Generate and Caresaver KiwiSaver are backing a community housing initiative seeking to raise $100 million in funding for as many as 300 low-cost houses, much of it to be built on unused urban church land.

Community Finance said it had reached the halfway stage of its Aotearoa Pledge targets, with cornerstone commitments of $10m each from the two KiwiSaver providers and ANZ Bank, while Forsyth Barr, Lindsay Foundation and WEL Energy Trust have contributed a combined $11m.

Chief executive James Palmer said the platform, established in 2019 with the backing of the Lindsay Foundation, the Tindall Foundation, the Matua Foundation and Christian Savings, was hoping to see other fund managers, community foundations and businesses "step up this year".

Its latest campaign follows the successful launch of its Salvation Army community bond last year, which raised $40m for the construction of 118 mixed-use homes in Royal Oak, Westgate and Flat Bush, near Auckland.

While that effort comes in at about $339,000 per house, it is known the Salvation Army contributed significantly on top of the funds borrowed from Community Finance.

The return for Generate, which bought $20m worth of those bonds, is 2.3% per annum. Community Finance said it typically charges less than 0.65% to manage the investments, lending and impact reporting.

Palmer said the model is "an efficient and robust solution for financing large scale affordable housing developments and is proven to deliver".

Community Finance said it has $1b in community housing projects on its books across Otago, Canterbury, Wellington, Hawke's Bay and Auckland.

It hasn't confirmed any of the new sites under the latest scheme, outside of several sites in the Waikato, under the WEL community bond investment.

Economist and Community Finance director Shamubeel Eaqub said it was exciting to see private capital in the pledge, as "the housing crisis is too big to be solved by philanthropic funds alone".

"When we can unleash the investments of ordinary New Zealanders, to the benefit of housing New Zealanders, we can move the dial.”