A plea for financial assistance by Cambridge Resthaven to Waipā District Council, as the community trust embarks on a two-year $36 million redevelopment programme, will now be considered as part of the council’s Annual Plan process.
Resthaven representatives asked the council’s Finance and Corporate committee this week to fund one of its new $81,000 studio units and in return they would call the unit the Waipā Studio.
Staff advice was to decline the application saying the trust already received a “significant amount of (rates) relief” and the request was ‘unanticipated rates’ funded support.”
Deputy chief executive Ken Morris said Resthaven was a community based not for profit organisation which had done many years outstanding service to the Cambridge community.
“This is probably unfortunate timing in terms of the request because any assistance council would provide here would be very much grant funding. This would be operational expenditure and come straight out of ratepayers’ dollars.”
But before the Resthaven representatives and councillors had time to discuss the agenda item, mayor Jim Mylchreest stepped in and asked staff why they could not consider funding the application from the council’s pensioner reserve housing fund.
“It seems to me the quantity we are talking about for one unit; we can’t build them for this price. If it is a dedicated facility, then it could be legitimately covered by a pensioner reserve account rather than coming from rates or further contributions from our development fees,” he said.
The pensioner reserve account is unspent rental funds contributed by tenants, said Morris.
“It seems to me it’s probably a pretty good investment,” said Mylchreest.
Deputy mayor Liz Stolwyk said Resthaven needed to be treated differently to other non-profit groups.
“We are part of this organisation so I feel uncomfortable talking about this group as a separate organisation.”
She supported Mylchreest’s suggestion and wanted it investigated further.
Cr Mike Pettit said the mayor’s idea was “superb” but also suggested the council could levy additional rates and use borrowed money to fund the application.
However, Cr Clare St Pierre said she wanted to see more financial background from Resthaven and the rules around using the pensioner reserve account. She also queried whether Resthaven had approached philanthropic funders or social housing supporters for assistance.
Finance and Corporate committee chair Andrew Brown said he wanted more time to consider what would be a “precedent” and a “knee jerk or ad hoc” decision.
The Resthaven request, which did not come through the Annual Plan process used by other organisations, will now go to the council’s Strategic Planning and Policy committee for a decision in May with other Annual Plan requests. Staff will meanwhile consider the application again and investigate other funding streams for consideration then.