When Cabinet decided that responsibility for Government Housing would be passed to the Samoa Housing Corporation in 2013, it was a logical and timely move.
“Cabinet must have been concerned it was not run as well as it could be so they wanted to make a change,” said the C.E.O. of Samoa Housing Corporation, Matautia Rula Levi.
“We just took it on board under our housing umbrella.
“Previously, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the Public Works Department had shared the responsibility for the houses.”
Many of the houses were built in the 1960’s and ‘70’s, mostly for ex-patriates who were working in Samoa post Independence.
They were solidly built for the tropics, but forty years on, they were in a poor state of repair.
There were also outstanding rents owed on many of them and the rental fees charged on the one, two or three bedroom buildings, did not reflect market rates.
“We decided to do the best we could do. We loaned funds from our core function which is providing loans for our clients, with the premise the money would be paid back.”
They also set about collecting arrears.
In the five years since the handover, Matautia said that of the 73 houses in Fagali’I, Moto-otua, Taumeasina and Vaiala, 69 have been completely renovated (94%).
“In the future we want to further develop the areas where our houses are. When they transferred the houses we had problems with neighbours who would use our access roads but that has now been taken care of,” said Matautia.
“Our rates are very competitive and as landlords, we are concerned about the condition of the houses we are letting.
The maintenance and upkeep is important as well as fostering good relationships with our tenants. We want them to feel a sense of ownership and pride in the houses and this has happened in most cases since the takeover.”
“There must be satisfaction on both sides and we have been encouraged by comments from our tenants. We are mindful of costs and we are able to utilize timber from other houses; we are very much aware of economies of scale.”
The increased value and transformation of these properties would not have been possible without the support of the Minister, Lautafi Fio Selafi Purcell and a good Board, said Matautia
“Within the Board there is a Sub Committee which oversees the Rental properties and meets every quarter.”
“We are also aware of the value of the buildings and properties which are situated in and around the Apia environs.
“They are national assets. They belong to us the people so my objective is, I want to really maximize the return as well as give our people an opportunity.”
The opportunity offered by the S.H.C. is for those renting, to eventually graduate to home ownership.
The Manager of Corporate and Rental Properties, Titimaea Tiotio said there was quite some research required before they could begin the work on the buildings.
“We had to find the properties when we took over. 72 properties became 73 when we learned of an extra house which was previously unaccounted for. The tenant then began paying rental fees to us.
“Recently, we completed the renovations on five houses at Fagalii so now we are looking for tenants for them. Four of them are three bedroom homes and there is one two bedroom home.
“Before S.H.C. took over, only government employees could rent the houses but after the transfer, an equal opportunity policy began where applicants were eligible as long as they could pay the rent.”
From renting a property, a tenant can be further helped by S.H.C. to eventually graduate to home ownership, Titimaea said.
“Anyone can apply at the Samoa Housing Corporation headquarters in Apia or make an appointment with one of our officers on the S.H.C. website www.samoahousing.ws“
Appointments can also be made on the S.H.C. Facebook page to apply for a house..
“We are slowly reviewing our rental rates to ensure they remain competitive,” said Matautia.
“Our target market is lower to moderate income earners and families so our clients range from scholarship students who have returned from overseas and are starting a family, to established families and couples who are both working.
“We can also help our clients further along by providing a loan when they have a deposit and are looking to buy a property for their own homes.”
The S.H.C. is on Togafu’afu’a Road and was first established in May 1990 by an Act which was amended in 2010.