He Korowai Trust Trust last week finalised the purchase of 50 acres of land near Kaitaia in a bold move to tackle a housing crisis.
Trust chairman Ricky Houghton says Maori home ownership is at an all time low. He has figures that demonstrate the need for change in the northern community: 73 per cent of his community are on some form of benefit, he says, 68 per cent are Maori, 37 per cent are single parents, and the average income is $23,000 a year.
"Does that put everything into perspective?" he asks.
The trust has been involved in a range of housing solutions in the Far North for a while. The trust rescues at least a home a week from mortgagee sales, it does mediation with landlords to keep people in their homes, they've run home ownership educational programmes in the past, the trust has even had Oprah Winfrey get involved with the Blue Light programme.
Most recently the trust applied to the social housing unit for a matching grant that will see it given $730,000 to fund nine four-bedroom houses on the land to house some of those in need.
In six weeks things will get started.
Local builders are to be trained to build the houses through NorthTec and Unitec. The cabinetry will be made in Ngawha Prison.
His team includes an architect from Auckland University of Technology.
Five of the 50 acres is zoned residential. And after the trust is finished its first nine-house project, Mr Houghton says it will build a further nine houses.
"The five acres that's already been zoned we're going to turn from European land into Maori land. And we're going to give them a licence to occupy forever."
The homes will have a move-in price of $130,000, he says. The criteria is that those housed on site must have lived in the Far North for two years, must currently be in substandard living conditions and must have been refused help from housing assistance.
With their house they will also be buying support services for the first five years, he says. The site will also be drug and alcohol free. It will be regulated through the Maori Community Development Act of 1962.
- Northern News
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