Five families now have homes to live in, after periods of uncertainty and stress, thanks to a group of Christian friends who banded together to do something tangible to help. The Koinonia Community Housing Trust, an independent trust established to provide housing to those most in need, has recently opened five brand new units on land adjacent to St David’s Church in Naenae, and manages the properties so as to enable tenants to enjoy warm, secure and affordable housing, in the midst of a caring community.
According to trustee Wayne Kirkland, it’s the long-term friendships he’s formed through church and ministry life that have been the catalyst to this project’s success. The trust was established by Wayne, who worships at St David’s Naenae, along with Nick Young from South Wairarapa Parish and a couple of Wayne’s friends from other Hutt Valley churches, all of whom serve as trustees. The support of the St David’s Church whānau has also been central. Wayne and his wife Jill became long-term friends with Rev Martin and Rev Alison Robinson, leaders of St David’s, after meeting each other through prison ministry. Both families felt called to relocate to Naenae in 2012 – initially to support men out of prison. Soon afterwards, Martin became Priest-in-charge at St David’s.
Over the past few years the housing issue has become a growing concern of the church. We will all remember Martin’s leadership of the parish’s protest action in 2017, during which church members camped on vacant Housing New Zealand land to draw attention to government inaction over the lack of housing availability in the midst of a housing crisis.
Determined not to stop with advocacy work, they pooled their talents and began to draw on their personal networks and relationships to seek tangible Kingdom solutions. The trust purchased the church property next to St David’s, and Wayne project managed the demolition, design and consent process. “The property was pretty tight and restricted, not allowing the number of units that we really needed,” Wayne told us. “We needed an extra strip of land to provide driveway access, so we approached the Diocese of Wellington to see if they could help.”
Nick Young, our Diocesan Manager, is also serving on the Koinonia Community Housing Trust. He told us: “Given the priority that our diocese has placed on the need for affordable housing, the Board was happy to help. They provided a legal easement on a strip of parish land, enabling the units to be built with the needed driveway access.”
Funding was an ecumenical effort as well. In addition to seeking donations, the trust was able to secure a mortgage from Christian Savings, allowing them to build the units and offer them at rates slightly lower than market rental.
“The benefit of the housing units’ location is proximity to the church community,” Wayne says. By being right next door, there are plenty of opportunities to form relationships that offer mutual aroha (love) and tautoko (support) to tenants and parish members alike.
Such relationships really are at the core of this project. It was due to the long-term friendships of the trustees, their mutual desire to love God and love their neighbours with their talents, and the teamwork of parish and diocesan governance bodies, that this amazing initiative has come to fruition.