28 Jul 2017

Desperate regions missing out on Māori housing fund

12:12 pm on 28 July 2017

A government-funded Māori housing project has built no new houses in Auckland or Rotorua - two of the regions where homelessness is most acute.

People are welcomed onto Te Puea Marae with a powhiri and a closing ceremony. 31 August 2016.

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

The Māori Party secured $37 million in funding over six years starting in 2015 for the Māori Housing Network, including for emergency housing and upgrades.

The network has approved funding for 140 projects, including repairs for 379 homes and nine proposals for new housing.

However, none of those nine proposals were based in Auckland - where a recent Auckland Council report estimated 24,000 people were now homeless.

Last year Mangere's Te Puea marae housed people without a home over winter, relying on donations to meet the cost.

This year the government has stepped in, with money coming from the Ministry of Social Development's emergency grants fund.

That fund has blown out much faster than expected, with $12m spent in the past three months.

The Māori Housing Network has also set aside $2m to help with emergency housing, double last year's amount.

In Rotorua, which is second only to Auckland for the number of homeless people per capita, volunteer organisation Love Soup housed more than 100 families last year.

Co-founder Gina Peiffer said the organisation had housed another 44 families by February this year.

They applied for some of the emergency housing funding but were turned down, and are working out of aroha for their community.

Local MP Te Ururoa Flavell - Māori Party co-leader and Māori development minister - was always helpful despite not providing Love Soup with any financial assistance, Ms Peiffer said.

"I think he wants to focus that all towards Whānau Ora because that's his baby, but ... he should give us some of that money."

Last year, Rotorua's Whānau Ora agency housed 15 families.

Rangitamoana Wilson, one of 19 whānau members living at the new papakainga.

Rangitamoana Wilson and 18 members of her family had help from the Māori Housing Network to build their new papakāinga housing Photo: RNZ / Shannon Haunui-Thompson

Where the Māori Housing Network has provided funding, there have been resounding success stories.

Five months ago, Rangitamoana Wilson blessed her new home in Ngāruawāhia.

Ms Wilson had been a life-time renter, with no real hope of owning her own house, but the network contributed towards building papakāinga housing for her and 18 members of her whānau.

"The overall cost of the build will be $720,000 [but], combined, there will be five whānau who live in it and we're just going to share the costs instead of renting," Ms Wilson said

Their unique solution was the only way into homeownership for many of her family members.

"The benefits just far outweigh the issues, relationships have become stronger [and] we're looking at what the future looks like for our children."

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