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Goodwin demands restructure

Masterton Community Trust board member Brent Goodwin. PHOTO/FILE

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Masterton Community Trust board member Brent Goodwin has called for a restructure of Trust House’s board after he says he was “left in the dark” regarding the sale of several Newland Pl flats which were formerly social housing.

Trust House sold the Newland Pl units to the Wairarapa Building Society in 2013.

As part of this sale, Goodwin said Trust House was given the first right of refusal to purchase the Newland Pl units back from WBS in the past year.

But Trust House did not repurchase them.

They were instead sold privately, resulting in at least one tenant being made homeless due to a lack of suitable rental housing stock in Wairarapa.

As a trustee of the community trust, Goodwin said he was not involved in any conversations regarding the first right of refusal.

“This issue was never brought to our board of trustees. I’m very disappointed; it’s yet more dysfunction from this body.”

Trust House’s major shareholder is the Masterton Community Trust, which owns 94 per cent of Trust House.

Goodwin was elected to the community trust’s board, but is not on the Trust House board.

He said social housing should remain social housing, rather than being sold off, so the decision not to buy back social housing didn’t make sense to him.

He felt “left in the dark” regarding an issue that was important to the community.

“[The Trust House board] are meant to tell us of any significant decisions or issues, but they didn’t say anything about the Newland Pl units.”

Trust House chairman Jock Kershaw said “Mr Goodwin is one of six trustees who make up the Masterton Community Trust”.

“For significant change to be made, he needs the support of other existing trustees. To date, he has failed to achieve any significant support and so it seems his only option is to complain to the local newspaper.”

Kershaw said the Newland Pl flats had not been part of Trust House assets since the sale in 2013, and that Trust House was not the vendor in 2020/21.

“Trust House has for some time been focusing its resources on increasing social and affordable housing options for the region by generating new housing on existing land and upgrading the current housing stock,” Kershaw said.

“Trust House is committed to providing affordable rental homes to low-income individuals and families in the community who need them most; in fact the rents that we charge are among the lowest in New Zealand. Buying back the Newland Pl flats in the current housing market therefore would not make sense.”

Goodwin said many of the longer-term trustees needed to be replaced to achieve some progress with housing.

In response to this, Kershaw said “the company board is a diverse one with a balanced representation of independent and elected members”.

“Over the last seven years, some four new directors have been appointed, bringing with them the skills and qualifications needed to govern all the trust business assets.”

“I wish to reassure readers that Trust House is highly focused on growing and improving our community housing portfolio to help those least fortunate, but not to put our existing assets at any significant financial risk.”

Goodwin wanted to see Trust House’s business interests in the hospitality industry through gambling, and social housing separated.

“My feeling is that housing would be better off separated from the gambling operations – it certainly hasn’t done well in the existing structure.”

He said in 1999, Trust House bought 541 houses from the government for $10,598,814.

He said that over the past 21 years, 59 social houses had been sold, and a plot of land previously owned by Trust House had since been subdivided into 72 sections at Solway.

“Only 12 new units have been built – this is the opposite of the lofty ambitions they have been proclaiming for decades.”

Meanwhile, a family member of a Newland Pl resident said the residents had been treated poorly by Wairarapa Building Society throughout the flats’ sale process.

The resident has been ailing, and the process had taken a toll on their health.

Their family member had wanted to buy the house when it was under Trust House ownership but was told that they weren’t looking to sell.

The resident’s family member felt the residents deserved an apology from WBS and deserved better treatment and communication in their old age.

WBS said that they were unable to provide the care that the Newland Pl residents needed, which is why they decided to sell.

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