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14 October 2015

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Good news for many housing charities

There has been a considerable amount of discussion in news media about the charitable status of community housing providers, so we thought you might like to hear directly from us about what’s been happening.

We have been reviewing charities that provide community housing, following a High Court decision that said that providing home ownership is only charitable in some (quite narrowly-defined) circumstances.

Where has the review got to?

The review process is now almost completed, and we’ve re-confirmed the charitable status of 99% of the 2,500 charities that provide housing/accommodation. Around 500 of those charities provide housing/accommodation as their main activity, and have a range of different schemes and structures.

We’ve been able to re-confirm most charities’ ongoing registration status just from their rules, but have needed more information from some charities before we could close our review. 

A very small number of charities haven’t replied to any of our letters, emails or phone calls, so if you’re one of these, or if you have recently changed the way you provide housing or accommodation but haven’t sent us a note about the changes, please do make contact with us.  

We’re aware that the review has caused several anxious moments for some charities, but hope that having worked through it with us, charities will have certainty about staying registered, or being able to apply for ongoing tax exemption and donee status through the new legislation that is soon to be enacted.

One of the charities that was initially hesitant about providing information when we first contacted them said that once they’d started talking with us, they felt a lot more confident about being able to carry on their good work.

Why have the He Korowai and Habitat for Humanity charities been reconfirmed as charitable?

Some of our reviews have been referred to the independent Charities Registration Board. The Board met on Monday, and re-confirmed that the housing activities carried out by the Northland-based He Korowai Trust, and twelve Habitat for Humanity charities relieve poverty. We have therefore closed our reviews into these charities.  

The High Court said that providing home ownership isn’t usually charitable, but the Board’s decisions recognise that these charities are helping people who are in charitable need, and have only limited options available to them. For example, there is no other available accommodation to rent for the people that He Korowai are helping, and nor could they reasonably commute.  

Both of these home ownership schemes are structured in a way that meets charitable criteria.

Continue the good work

So – we hope the He Korowai Trust and the Habitat for Humanity charities (and all the other housing providers that we have already re-confirmed as charitable) will now continue their good work, knowing they meet all the legal criteria, and feel confident that their housing activities are definitely charitable.

We also hope that the small number of charities that haven’t yet got in touch with us (and any that have changed their rules but not told us) will email or pick up the phone, and work with us to confirm their status.

And we hope that you will continue to read our newsletters and news alerts, and email or give us a call if you have any questions or need any guidance or advice about charities law and how it applies to housing (or any other issue). 

Nāku, nā

Lesa's signature

Lesa Kalapu
General Manager
Charities Services