In a fresh-thinking move led by Baptists, some social housing in Whangārei serves a dual purpose.

A small but growing trust has found a way to support disadvantaged people there and at the same time support ethical charities overseas. It lets homes to people who are lowest on the application list, at a fair market rent (based on recommended values), while ensuring an income is generated that allows support for overseas community development.

The small charity is Tambourine Trust which lets three dwellings (with three more in the pipeline) to ‘high risk’ low income families and also sends funds annually to three trusts in India and Cambodia.

You may rightly ask, ‘How is this possible?’

There are several steps. Let’s first meet a tenant. Maia (not her real name), mother of four, had to keep on moving to other people’s homes for six and a half years, while waiting for a state house or rental, but her poor credit rating undermined all applications. The reason: she had bought on hire purchase with a finance company a used car that then broke down. She had no way to pay for repairs, and the car became their home. The result: she was repeatedly declined for all house applications, and shifted on from occasional emergency housing. Rental agents forgot her, continually. She searched and waited.

Till someone gave her number to Pip Rea who took her to Propertyscouts and a four-bedroom home and the mention of Tambourine Trust. 

As Maia tells it, 

My heart skipped two beats. …If not for [COVID-19] Level 3 social distancing rules I would’ve jumped on her hugging and screaming tears of joy!!! To have two agencies…actually look at me as a mother, as a human and not a name on a paper and not ask for references and proof was overwhelmingly refreshing… I don’t know how long I could’ve kept myself going but thanks to Tambourine and WhangāreiPropertyscouts we are settled enough that I’m working again and the kids are in stable schooling and we couldn’t be happier. Thank you so much!!’

You would be right if you think this ties to quite a few organisations. The networking is intrinsic. WhangāreiPropertyscouts’ CEO is Didi Skinner who, with her team, are property managers who support vulnerable families. Didi had felt frustrated at not helping tenants who did not meet pre-requisites. She found how, with careful common-sense, her company could guarantee the rent. 

‘That’s the magic,’ Didi exclaims. ‘With tested processes I can mitigate the risk. We partner with local insurance, and with the support services offered through organisations like Arataki Ministries. It’s always fun. Usually a success.’ 

That is all joy to Pip Rea of Arataki Ministries which grew out of Whangārei Baptist Church and now rents two of the Tambourine properties. ‘Arataki Ministries is residential support for people with high needs,’ Pip says. ‘It supports needs in mental health, maternal and infant care, nutrition, budgeting, health or legal matters.’ The wrap-around 24/7 services make it possible for people to stay in stable housing with increasing well-being.

Rarely can they make the recovery journey without stable accommodation, so Arataki has partnered with Propertyscouts for housing.

Didi enthuses further. ‘My staff are so relieved when they see the support services in action. It’s like a ray of light. Isn’t Maia’s story a delight!’

There is also a shoutout of thanks to Lifepoint Baptist Church for their marvellous working bees of house renovation. They saved $11,000 on one house.

Why are the special skills of Propertyscouts needed? 

It’s because even rental homeowners who want to help the poorest may feel stymied. The fine print in their insurance policies requires a tenant to pass a background check which many needy families would fail. That deters potential generosity, and besides, owners do not want their house to become a horror story of damage and unpaid rent. Consequently, if they appear to be a rent risk, even hard-working families are excluded from a place to stay long-term.

A trustee of Tambourine Trust, Kelly Comery who lives in Whangārei, can tell us more. ‘Though we are a charity,’ she says, ‘we have found partners who exercise due diligence while mitigating risk which enables longer tenancies for families like Maia’s. Housing is foundational to all the other needs like how can a person attend the same school, doctor, church, anything! when they are bouncing from pillar to post?’

‘Here we are, all Baptists, finding a way to help needy people in Aotearoa, and yet setting aside annual income to serve vulnerable communities overseas. We hope others will take to the idea too. Tambourine Trust owns the properties, which Propertyscouts manages, working in turn with Arataki Ministries, which provides the wrap-around care for people like Maia.’ 

Tambourine Trust started with one house in 2012, with founders seeking to contribute to a more just and peaceful world. 

And why the name Tambourine? The folk instrument mentioned in the Psalms is easy to play, heralds good things, celebrates and crosses boundaries of culture. It symbolically carries hope. Perhaps this is a fitting use for the whakatauki ‘Ahakoa he iti, he pounamu,’ ‘Although it looks small, it is of great value.’ 

Written by Beulah Wood, former President of the Baptist Churches of New Zealand, and retired from work as a writer and lecturer in preaching and theology of family at South Asia Institute of Advanced Christian Studies in Bangalore, India.

Photo: Supplied by Beulah Wood.

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