The productivity commission’s been told to rethink its attitudes to Maori housing in a hard hitting report into housing needs in the Bay of Plenty.
A lack of in depth analysis, and a failure to address noted shortcomings in the Housing Corporations Kainga Whenua programme are two items listed in submissions to the commission by the Western BOP Maori Housing Forum.
The Forum is a collective of 66 Maori land trusts in the Western Bay of Plenty sub region addressing the issues of housing a Maori population expected to triple by 2051.
Maori land trusts in the region want to open up 21,000ha of Maori owned land to house their people, but are facing attitudinal and institutional barriers.
The commission states housing on Maori land is “valued more for keeping whanau connected to land, tradition, tupuna, and their whanaunga, than as a financial investment. It is “about building communities, rather than building houses.”
The Maori Housing forum’s submission says providing adequate shelter, and basic housing affordability are the two main issues for Maori.
“It may seem trite to say that housing is a basic human need but it is important to remind ourselves of that reality,” states the forum.
“We have current examples of Kuia, Kaumatua and whanau with young children living in caravans and portacoms, overcrowded and unsuitable living situations.
“In these situations the priority for them is not reconnection with the land but provision of adequate housing. Housing is valued by Maori for its purpose as housing.”
The other major hurdle for Maori house builders is financial. Banks won’t lend money using communally owned Maori land as security.
The productivity commission identified this as a major barrier, and confirmed the Kainga Whenua project launched in 2009 has failed with only one loan being granted.
The Maori population for Tauranga is expected to grow by 24 per cent, and the Western Bay of Plenty 14 per cent by 2021.
The forum reports house prices in the sub regions are increasing, while Maori household incomes are decreasing with the general housing market remaining unaffordable for Maori. A total 81 per cent of new homes are being built above the median house price of $340,000, while at the same time more than half of Maori households in Tauranga Moana have a yearly income of less than $50,00 - 32 per cent of Maori households have a yearly income of less than $30,000.
A house valued at $350,000 requires mortgage repayments of more than $600 per week. The average Maori household income is less than $40,000 per year, or $769 gross per week and declining.
Victoria Kingi, director of Papakainga Solutions Ltd says in the WBOP 10 per cent of the housing market comprises one or two bedroom homes, while half of the households in the sub region comprise one or two people, creating a shortage of suitable housing for elderly.
Victoria says Maori whose current accommodation options include living with extended family in often overcrowded or inappropriate conditions, or living in caravans. Developing Maori land for housing, in spite of its own subset of difficulties is the only realistic option for affordable housing that Maori have.
The Maori Housing Forum has been working since 2009 at developing Maori land for housing by engaging in the district plan reviews of both Tauranga City and Western BOP District councils to secure better provisions to develop Maori rural land for housing.
The forum is also carrying out research among its members and is working collaboratively with local councils, the Maori land court and other government agencies to develop joint agency responses and strategies.
This month sees the formal opening of the Mangatawa Papamoa Blocks Papakainga, a housing project of 10 new homes for Kaumatua, being stage one of a thirty house project. The Tauwhao Te Ngare Trust will soon implement their Papakainga housing project to build
five homes on Rangiwaea Island.
“The reality is that a lot of housing on Maori land is actually ad hoc, unplanned, and based on a first up best dressed approach. This is especially so where the land has no land trust in place or the trust is not functioning or lacks capability,” says the forum.
“This is further affected by Local Council planning rules limiting the number of houses to two houses per rural title despite the size of the land and its capacity to sustain more housing akin to a community. The task of planning for and delivering papakainga housing on Maori land is herculean and requires capability and commitment of not only land trusts but also other agencies in a collaborative approach to deliver this.
“In turn this requires Government resourcing to provide for Project Drivers or Managers - a range of expertise usually associated with building developments; financial and structuring advice; constant stakeholder management; constant engagement with and assistance to potential home owners or tenants to get them to the level of necessary readiness to qualify for lending. It is no easy task to build a community and requires a new way of operating, a joint agency approach working with Maori.”