Concern over housing legislation
The Queenstown Lakes former community housing specialist, now leading the nationwide community housing push, has concerns over the government's plans to introduce legislation ensuring trusts remain exempt from income tax.
Now the director of Community Housing Aotearoa, the representative body for 65 community housing trusts and organisations, Scott Figenshow said that while he supported the new legislation, there were still details to work out, particularly for the Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust.
''The devil will be in the detail,'' he said.The trust was the catalyst for the government move after it was unexpectedly deregistered by the Charities Commission four years ago and lost a bid to have it restored in the High Court in 2011.
Inland Revenue then ruled the trust was a tax-paying business since its inception in 2007 and would be liable.
The substantial bill for the multi-million dollar trust could have had implications for the trustees, Queenstown Lakes District Council and possibly some of the people helped into 74 homes by the trust.
While Housing Minister Nick Smith gave an assurance the trust would not be facing a tax bill for the past six years, the statement announcing new legislation said only the Government would be ''providing transitional assistance to some community housing providers facing tax liabilities prior to the new law coming into effect on April 14, 2014''.
When asked last week Mr Smith was unable to provide details of how that would work saying only that final details were still being worked through.
Mr Figenshow said he anticipated progress would be made.
''You would expect government announcements to mean that there's a clear pathway forward for the community housing trust and any other organisations to make sure they can moved from a former set of rules into the new rules without penalty to the organisation.''
There were also a question over the definition of a ''low-income family'' with the minister stating the new tax exemption should be limited to providing housing support to low-income families.
However, Mr Figenshow believed if they did not get it right, it could severely affect the Queenstown Lakes trust's ability to carry out its role.
''The worst thing that could happen is if they define low income based on median income.
''This won't solve the problem. Median income in Queenstown is slightly higher than New Zealand and house prices are three times the median.''
Most importantly, Mr Figenshow wanted to see the government commit to funding community housing.
''The sector gets access to less than 3 per cent of funding yet is meant to be delivering 20 per cent of housing.''
- The Mirror
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