Doug Spick, Director Maintenance Contracting and Asset Services, talks about the scale of the crown entity’s national maintenance contract and how it’s customer-first approach is critical to its success.

At the heart of the Kāinga Ora maintenance programme is a commitment to ensuring our customers are living well in homes that are warm, dry, healthy and safe. That’s the bottom line. Everything we do flows out from that.

Customers' needs top of mind

Doug Spick, Director Maintenance Contracting and Asset Services

When we designed our current maintenance model back in 2017 as Housing New Zealand, we set out to deliver significant system and process improvements for our staff, our maintenance partners, and most importantly for the 200,000 people who call our properties home. The top post-it-note in our first planning session was ‘customer needs’ – ensuring our customers are satisfied with the service they receive and are treated with dignity and respect along the way.

So, we asked customers what was most important to them and what they thought about the way we deliver responsive and planned maintenance work in their home. We then took time to plan the right approach before going to market for our maintenance contract, and that has proven crucial in the long-run.

In October 2019, Housing New Zealand, its development subsidiary Hobsonville Land Company, and KiwiBuild combined to form Kāinga Ora–Homes and Communities.

Shortly after in July 2020, we introduced our new national maintenance contract, Te Mahi Ngātahi. The name broadly translates as ‘working together as one’, and reflects our commitment to working with our maintenance partners to put customers at the centre of everything we do.

Getting the right partners

Following an extensive procurement process, we are pleased to have found five maintenance partners equally committed to our vision; Spencers, Spotless Ltd, Responsive Maintenance Ltd, Switched on Housing Ltd and Dunedin Housing Maintenance Ltd.

This contract is significant, with a maximum term of 10 years and a value of just under $4 billion dollars of maintenance and repair work. That’s a big budget, and it reflects the size and relative age of our housing portfolio and the scope of work included to meet the requirements of the Residential Tenancies Act. Our 68,000 homes are maintained by approximately 9000 trades operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Over our last financial year 2020/21, our total spend on repairs and maintenance was $519.4m, which includes $68.7m spent on our Healthy Homes Programme.

In the last 12 months, we've completed more than 450,000 maintenance jobs, equating to around 9000 a week, and we’ve upgraded more than 15,000 homes to meet the government’s Healthy Homes Standards.

Being responsive

Response time has always been a priority focus for us.  We have different service level targets for different priorities of maintenance requests; we aim to complete urgent health and safety work within 12 hours, urgent responsive work within 48 hours, and general repairs within 10 working days. In the last financial year, 84 per cent of maintenance requests were completed within the agreed service level targets.

With the new contract, we introduced new technology, which has enabled simple maintenance requests to be automatically routed to maintenance partners, so jobs are completed more quickly. Trades can also now do similar quick and easy additional work while onsite without the need for a new logged job, reducing callouts and inconvenience to our customers.

Additionally, we’ve added more flexibility around scheduling appointments and improved customer notification processes. And, through our customer tool MyKaingaOra, customers can access a personalised online profile to log maintenance requests and to check on progress.

Better social procurement and environmental outcomes is yet another focus. Our maintenance partners and their trades actively invest into local communities with apprenticeships and other local social and environmental initiatives.

We own a range property types from standalone housing both new and old, to modern multi-unit and multi-level apartment complexes throughout New Zealand.  Broadly speaking, the maintenance work we do across this portfolio falls into one of two sub programmes; our responsive repair programme and our planned maintenance programme.

Working to healthy home standards

Installing new double-glazed windows

Our Healthy Homes Programme is our largest planned maintenance programme to date in terms of breadth, complexity and volume. It’s also unique to our other programmes in that it responds to specific legislative requirements under the Residential Tenancies (Healthy Homes Standards) Regulations 2019.  Kāinga Ora has until 1 July 2023 to make all homes compliant with the government’s Healthy Homes standards for heating, insulation, ventilation, moisture and drainage, and draught stopping. This deadline is a full year before all private rentals must meet the standards. Currently, we are upgrading around 100 homes per working day to meet the standards. We’ve also rolled out an education programme to help customers get the most out of the upgrades, and it’s available in English, Te Reo Māori, Samoan, Tongan and Mandarin.

Upgrading and renewing housing

Over the years, we’ve run a range of programmes to maintain and upgrade our homes.  Our Warm and Dry Programme focused on the installation of triple-weave curtains, upgraded heating, extraction fans and range hoods, and new carpet or vinyl over bare floors. Our Exterior Paint and Reroof Programmes focus on providing longevity to our homes, while our Fencing and Driveway Safety Programmes provide bespoke solutions.

In addition, we have two types of renewals programmes: Complex Remediations and Retrofit. Both programmes are a way to upgrade and improve our older homes. While a retrofit is a renewal of a single home, complex remediations are renewals of large complexes of ten or more units that are two storeys or more high. Under these programmes, we include full insulation (walls, ceiling, and floor), double-glazing on windows, improved air-tightness, ventilation, and new heating, and any other necessary improvements.

Work recognised in housing awards

Delivering maintenance in a Covid-19 environment has presented some unexpected challenges including lockdowns, heightened customer anxiety about having multiple trades in their homes, and constraints experienced generally by the building sector, such as sourcing materials and trades.

Despite this, our Te Mahi Ngātahi contract scooped the Excellence in Social Housing award in the New Zealand section of the 2021 Australasian Housing Institute Awards (AHI), held virtually in December 2021. The awards recognise the work of housing professionals and organisations that have made a significant and lasting difference to tenants or service users, the community, colleagues and the wider profession.

The award represents everything we set out to achieve when we stuck that first post-it-note on the wall back in 2017 and set the wheels in motion for the maintenance contract we have today.