Our nation is in the midst of a housing crisis. Down in Christchurch the housing shortage isn’t quite as bad, thanks to a flurry of post-quake builds. However, there has been red-hot pressure on the city council to improve the quality of their council housing and the care they provide to residents.
It’s one thing to point the finger at the state for their handling of the crisis, but it’s something else to act to make a difference. Oxford Terrace Baptist Church was given such an opportunity when the chance to purchase 10 one‑bedroom units of council housing landed in our lap on 31st July 2019. During the course of transferring their entire stock of council housing, the council offered these units to local Baptists for purchase, thanks to a historic Baptist connection to the houses.
Housing was already on our minds as a church, featuring heavily both in our history and in our ongoing post-quake rebuild plans. As a congregation, we agreed we wanted to provide safe, warm, affordable community housing in answer to the housing issues facing New Zealand. It seemed like God was holding us to our word. The catch was we only had a few weeks to come to a decision.
We rapidly got to work. Inspections were done, earthquake repair work costed, insurance sought, and finance secured through Christian Savings. A proposal was brought to the church to borrow the funds to purchase these properties. It felt like a tall order to ask our members to agree to such a rushed proposal. But they discerned over two church meetings that God had provided us with an unmissable opportunity. On Sunday 29th September 2019 an almost unanimous vote was passed to borrow $1.3 million to purchase the units.
Since then we have partnered with VisionWest Community Trust to manage the existing tenancies and work with residents to foster strong community life. It’s a story of Baptists working together—church, bank and community trust—to act in an area of need. God has held us to our word and given us an opportunity to make a difference.
Contributor: Andrew Meek