A brief history of CORT
Who we are
CORT Community Housing was started in 1987 by a small Baptist church in Ponsonby. Members of the congregation wanted to demonstrate the Christian value of ‘loving your neighbour’ in a practical way. So they created Community of Refuge Trust (CORT), a not-for-profit charitable housing trust, with the aim of providing affordable housing for people on very low incomes. The name Community of Refuge came from the congregation, in acknowledgement that many of us at some time in our lives will need a place of refuge, a place that is safe – a place to call home.
CORT community Housing has a strong community focus and we enjoy a strong relationship with Ponsonby Baptist Church. Together, we host successful BBQ and movie nights (during the winter months) that regularly attract over 50 tenants.
CORT Community Housing’s mid-year dinner attracts over 100 tenants and provides a great opportunity to enjoy food and entertainment and to socialise with others.
What is community housing and who runs the trust?
Often referred to as third-sector housing, community housing is not privately owned or government owned. It is owned by a community organisation and operated for the good of the community.
CORT Community Housing is administered by a board of voluntary trustees who employ staff to run its day-to-day activities. The organisation relies on the support of its tenants and a wide range of people and community groups to deliver its services. Without this support CORT Community Housing would not exist.
How we started
The Community of Refuge Trust was founded in 1987 by Auckland’s Ponsonby Baptist Church in response to the housing needs of people on low incomes in its local area. The trust operates independently of the church and is governed by its own board of trustees. It was initially heavily dependent on volunteers and fundraising and few staff to carry out its work. However, such was the passion and enthusiasm of the fledgling organisation that it survived and flourished to grow into its present form as a leader in the field of third-sector housing.
The years between 1992 and 1999 saw radical changes in society. There were tougher times, Ruthonomics and a government pushing a market model, all of which forced the fledgling trust to adopt a more professional model of service provision. This included enhanced reporting, accountability to stakeholders, specialist staff training, policy development and quality, and financial audits.
By 2000, CORT had become a more robust organisation with a more tactical focus. With support from the council, CORT made the significant purchase of 15 Freemans Bay council flats. Partnering initially with Housing New Zealand through its Housing Innovation Fund and later the Social Housing Unit (SHU) CORT purchased additional housing stock. In 2006, CORT received funding from the Auckland District Health Board (ADHB) to assist with the housing of people with mental health disabilities.
CORT has grown significantly since 2006 to the present with the number of properties it owns increasing from 50 to 133. In 2006, it began renting additional properties from the private market and subletting the properties to eligible tenants. This enabled CORT to extend its services ever further. It now offers safe, affordable homes to 250 households on a low income.
In 2009, the National Government introduced the Social Housing Reform programme. This reviewed the means by which the Government provides social housing in New Zealand. This review resulted in the removal of the Government social housing policy function from Housing NZ, recognition and support for the growth of community housing sector and the proposed introduction of regulation and tenant income-related funding in 2014.
CORT Community Housing trustees are excited about the prospect of responding to the new challenges and opportunities provided by the Government’s proposed changes to the social housing sector.
For a more complete history of CORT’s early years please refer to Community of Refuge – A History of the Community of Refuge Trust, by Margaret McClure, 2005.
Copies are available from CORT’s office.