Māori housing focus part of promising Budget

1:57 pm on 21 May 2021

By Jade Kake*

Opinion - Budget 2021 includes a large spend on housing, with a particular focus on Māori housing. The government has tagged $380 million for Māori housing initiatives under the Whai Kāinga Whai Oranga fund. Of this, an estimated $300 million is earmarked for new supply, $50 million for home repairs, $30 million for the MAIHI partnership, and $30 million for capability building. A further $350 million is tagged for infrastructure.

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The government's Budget announcement put real on mana motuhake Māori. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

The verdict? Māori housing advocates have spoken and the government has listened. This is a fantastic budget, with a real emphasis on mana motuhake Māori. It will be interesting to see whether approaches adopted in other sectors - such as the newly-announced Māori health authority and the devolution of Oranga Tamariki functions to some Māori, iwi and hapū groups, will extend to housing in future.

The Māori and Iwi Housing Innovation (MAIHI) partnership, which coordinates support for Māori housing projects and kaupapa across government, is currently funded at $10 million per annum. Assuming the MAIHI partnership will be funded through the Whai Kāinga Whai Oranga new fund, if there's no increase we can assume around $30,000 (currently $10,000 per year).

This seems a little light, given the amount of new work that will be generated. Under the fund, 700 new repairs are slated. These can range from condition assessments, critical repairs like fixing issues that endanger life or health, essential repairs that bring the house up the NZ Building Code standard, and developing management plans and attending training. If we assume $50 million is allocated, this is around $70,000 per house. If this number is reduced to $50,000 per house (that's more like $35,000), this could see additional funds allocated to MAIHI.

Māori housing advocate Te Matapihi have been calling for increased pūtea for papakāinga, additional infrastructure funding, and increased support for the MAIHI programme, and the 2021 budget largely delivers.

The $380 million allocated over three years varies year-on-year, but averages out to around $126 million per year. The $350 million tagged for infrastructure - around $116 million per year - falls only very slightly short of the $250 million per year called for at the latest national Māori housing hui for a kaupapa Māori housing fund, and well exceeds the current $36.87 million Te Kōtuitui Hanga Whare mō ngā Māori (Māori Housing) fund.

Te Matapihi lead advisor Wayne Knox

Photo: RNZ / Meriana Jonsen

Te Matapihi published a briefing to incoming Ministers in 2020. The briefing focused on a by Māori, for Māori approach, "mana motuhake, ā-iwi, ā-kāinga, ā-whānau, ā-tangata; a focus, that is, on empowerment and independence, be that at a tribal, community, whānau or individual level," and the newly-announced fund delivers in this respect.

How does this compare with the mainstream budget?

Across the 2021 budget, a total of $4.81 billion is allocated to housing initiatives, including $27.72 in the Vote corrections budget for housing and other reintegration initiatives, $30 million in the Vote Health budget for expanding the Healthy Homes initiative.

The remainder - a whopping $4.76 billion - is allocated across the Vote Housing and Urban Development and Vote Māori Development budgets. If we exclude the housing initiatives funded through the Corrections and Health budgets, this means that Māori specific initiatives amount to around 15.35 percent of the overall housing spend. Not bad from an equity perspective, when we consider that Māori are 16.7 percent of the national population, according to State NZ estmates at 30 June 2020.

Where are the gaps?

It's difficult to assess without the details, but perhaps further attention could be given to the development of alternative financial products for Māori housing. It's also unclear whether sufficient pūtea has been set aside for targeted initiatives addressing homelessness, although the significant focus on supply will go a long way towards addressing this issue.

Jade Kake (Ngāpuhi, Te Arawa, Te Whakatōhea) is an architectural designer, housing advocate and writer based in Whangārei.