2 Jul 2018

Experts call for government to focus on Māori affordable housing, not just Kiwibuild

From Nine To Noon, 9:08 am on 2 July 2018

Smaller housing developers are being locked out by bureaucracy costs, and experts say the government must connect people with expertise so affordable housing, particularly for Māori, can be built.

The woman and her family were evicted from their state house and ordered to pay $20,500 in costs to decontaminate it

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Te Rūnanga o Kirikiriroa had planned to build 62 units in Hamilton suburb Enderley, but had to abandon it due to costs and time constraints saying the project was was "far larger and more complex" that they initially thought.

It is now selling the land, and has asked the council to ensure that whoever buys it must build affordable homes on it.

AUT Māori studies and management senior lecturer Ella Henry is also a researcher for the National Science Challenge: Building better homes, towns and cities.

She tells Nine to Noon there are several problems that need to be solved.

"We've finally acknowledged that we have a housing crisis, we have an affordability crisis, we also have higher numbers of Māori in unemployed states and living in powerless situations," she says.

She says the government - at local and national level - needs to get involved in affordable and social housing simply because the private sector is not equipped to do so.

"The reality is the New Zealand construction industry is not geared for affordable housing and in fact the real estate market is not geared for affordable housing.

"Most of the people involved - or most of the companies involved - in big builds are in it for the maximum amount of big profit, not for social good reasons."

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  • The new government might have good intentions, she says, but has inherited a legacy of bureaucracy around consents that makes it almost impossible for social housing agents to build affordable housing in a sustainable way.

    Expertise was lost when the government turned social housing development over to the private sector, she says.

    "There was once a time when … the government of this country were able to build literally thousands of social houses a year.

    "Here we are, 35 years later, and we've figured out the market isn't actually doing it better and we're having to relearn all of these skills that were once held within government ministries.

    "If we are going to get social housing agencies involved in this, why are we not helping them to be mentored by people within government who have that memory of the kinds of processes and structures required for big builds?"

    Rau Hoskins, who chairs Te Mata Pihi - the national Māori housing organisation - has similar sentiments.

    "There is an issue of scale which is quite pressing, there is a wider issue of capacity, and with the government withdrawing from large-scale social housing in the 1990s and in particular the Department of Māori Affairs being abolished and all the Māori housing developments dying along with the department … we've only had a very, very slender line of Māori housing developments coming through the line in the past 28 years."

    "I guess what the Māori party did do was just keep that pipeline alive through some of the work that Tariana Turia did in her capacity as associate housing minister."

    Mr Hoskins has a background as an Auckland-based architect working with Māori-based community projects, and says the government needs to prioritise community-based housing alongside its wider housing commitments.

    "The bigger picture is that this government is focusing on Kiwibuild and on volume, and on really ramping up the numbers, and it's not necessarily had a strong focus so far on assisting community housing providers to carry on and upscale the work that they had been doing under the last government.

    Construction starts on the Kiwibuild project

    Construction starts on the Kiwibuild project Photo: RNZ/ Sophia Duckor-Jones

    Dr Henry says there are other problems facing smaller developers too.

    "I've been at a hui in Kaitaia and honestly the infrastructure lacks up here are appalling.

    "There are parts of this country that don't have access to sewage, electricity, telephone, let alone the wifi we take for granted here in the city.

    "In terms of infrastructure we have still to see a facilitative process that would allow whānau mortgages or intergenerational mortgages that would allow communities and whānau and hapū to aggregate their capital.

    "I'm personally also of the view that New Zealand pays a very high price for many of its building products."

    She says the work Shane Jones had been doing on improving Māori relations are starting to bear fruit, and she's optimistic it will result in positive changes.

    Meanwhile, Mr Hoskins says he wants more clarity from the government on affordable housing providers.

    "There is a Māori housing strategy that will be embedded into that [national housing] strategy, so I guess we're hoping that the rest of this year there will be some more clarity to bear in terms of the playing field that operators like Te Runanga o Kirikiriroa can be playing in.

    He says the creation of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development is a step in the right direction.

    "I think we've had four entities involved with housing - and that's MSD, HNZC, MBIE and Te Puni Kokiri. Certainly from Te Mata Pihi's perspective we're looking for a much stronger, centralised, more of a one-stop-shop approach to, in particular, Māori housing."