On Friday night, the Samoa Housing Corporation staged a Masquerade Ball to celebrate their Silver Jubilee – 25 years since their establishment in 1990.
In terms of development, achievements and progress, there was much to celebrate.
As well as the Keynote Address delivered by Minister Lautafi Purcell and anniversary awards to the past and present C.E.Os, three staff members were recognized for their service of over 20 years to the Corporation.
They were Assistant C.E.O, Fulumoa Sua; Manager - Loans, Leitufia Mati Luamanuvae; and Senior Loans Officer, Muagututagata Anesi Fa’alafi.
In the past few years, there have been local and overseas awards for leadership and achievements of the Corporation as well as recognition of their strong role in assisting their clients into affordable housing.
Growth of the Corporation can be seen in the figures from 1993, when there was 15 staff, a portfolio of $2.5million and 300 clients.
In 2015 their staff has increased to 32, their portfolio is $42 million and they have close to 3000 clients on their books.
An added asset is the 72 Government houses now worth $3.8 million and with an annual rental income of $380,000.
But it was back in 1990, that the Samoa Housing Corporation was set up through the Housing Corporation Act of that same year.
It had a capital base of $10 million and was guided by its Chief Executive Officer, the late Fa’amausili Vaito’a Toelupe.
“There were many challenges,” said the present C.E.O, Matautia Rula Levi.
“Policies and guidelines had to be established to get underway and tribute should be paid to Fa’amausili for his initial work.”
The first changes in January 2005, when Matautia was appointed as the new C.E.O, were deliberately done to provide and enhance a profile for prospective and existing clients.
“We decided to have a competition to design a logo as the New Zealand Housing Authority was not happy that we were using theirs.”
At the time, the Corporation was housed in the Government Building where general access was from the basement in the car park.
“The front doors were not used and we were tucked away down a corridor in offices inside which made it difficult for people to find us,” said Matautia.
By May of 2005, Matautia had convinced her then-Minister, Misa Telefoni, and the Board to buy the building where they are presently situated and by 2006 they had moved there.
Other changes quickly followed.
In 2007, S.H.C. established an office in Savai’i.
“People living in Savai’i had previously had to travel here to apply for their loans so we set up an office at Salelologa to cater for them.”
By 2009, the Samoa Housing’s portfolio had grown from $14 million to $20 million and Samoa’s profile was lifted again when they joined A.D.F.I.P, the Association of Development Financing Institutions in the Pacific.
The following year, S.H.C. became members of the larger Association of Development Financing Institutions of Asia and the Pacific, A.D.F.I.A.P.
“Being a part of these organisations helped our country’s profile and allowed us to network and share with other financial institutions, both big and small.”
One of the membership outcomes has been that the Corporation along with the National Provident Fund, the Development Bank and the National Bank, will host the next A.D.F.I.A.P conference in Samoa in December 2016.
“Everyone wants to come to Samoa,” said Matautia. “It also means that some of the heads of financing institutions from smaller island nations will be able to attend because of their proximity.”
Cyclone Evan made 2012 a watershed year for the Corporation.
“We set up a special interest-free relief programme for our clients and our performance through our Annual Reports was acknowledged by the Parliamentary Sub-Committee.”
By 2013, Government housing – 72 rental houses valued at three million tala, were handed over to the Corporation to manage.
“There was no budget for them and many of them were in a poor state of disrepair so we have had to borrow from our Core Function Fund and take a one million tala loan from U.T.O.S. to upgrade them so they will be in a good state for clients.”
A point of pride for the organisation is that over recent years, they have been able to pay $1.5 million in dividends to Government.
“Good governance is the key; valuing people’s money and ensuring it is well utilised.
“We impress on people who are not repaying their loans that the money is needed so it can be turned over to help others. It’s really so we can look after all the stakeholders.”
Opportunities to work with other existing organisations to assist clients is also part of the Corporation’s work; an example of which is the project with the Habitat for Humanity, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (A.D.R.A.) and with support from the New Zealand government.
The project aims to provide better, stronger homes which are better able to withstand natural disasters.
And while their core function of providing affordable housing is still what drives the Corporation, because of growth of the organisation and the expanded services they offer, they are looking to find government land on which to build.
Meanwhile, ongoing capacity building and grooming of staff is important to ensure they have career pathways.
And the clients?
“They can still expect that we will judge each case on its merits and try to work things out so we can say yes to their loan applications,” said Matautia.