Families want in
More than 50 families have applied for the first nine homes offered through an innovative affordable housing solution in Kaitaia.
Chief executive Ricky Houghton says he's surprised by the response the new programme has received given that it will be drug, alcohol and violence-free.
The Far North trust's project will be regulated through the Maori Community Development Act of 1962.
The Kaitaia-based social development services provider has offered the first half of 18 homes it has planned for a 2.02-hectare site near the town.
He Korowai Trust chief executive Ricky Houghton says there has been "a heap of demand", with 57 families lodging applications.
He says the demand highlights quality of life for many residents keen to escape poor housing options in communities where drugs, alcohol and violence are problems.
"I was surprised firstly by how many people wanted to apply, but secondly, how many people wanted to leave their communities," he says.
"A lot of them get caught up in this sort of social behaviour because they can't escape it, because of the social housing type of environment that they're trapped in.
"The reality is 67 per cent of the Far North is on some form of benefit; 37 per cent are single parents and the average income is $22,000 – and that doesn't do much," he says.
"So people are living in really horrible living conditions and those that are renting are spending up to 70, 80 per cent of their income on rent," he says.
"That's what's causing all the family disruption and everything."
The trust has bought 20 hectares of land of which 2ha has been zoned residential.
A team of planners from Auckland University of Technology has helped to design a plan for 18 homes on the 2ha which will help to foster community, he says.
Rather than a "road up the middle", the ring road concept, emphasising walkways and a centrally located play area for children makes for a safer community.
"Everyone can see everyone else's kids playing in the play areas."
There are horticulture programmes and the houses come with free medical care, free early childhood development programmes, free help with budgeting and parenting for the first five years.
"We believe that's going to give them the best kickstart into home ownership," Mr Houghton says.
The homes will cost $220 per week over 17 years, less occupants' accommodation support of $70 a week. Payments will be $150 a week.
"It's been structured in such a way that no more than a third of their income goes out based on a $22,000 a year benefit."
He says the trust might be able to fill the immediate demand but the approach provides a model that is repeatable in other places.
"What it proves is that affordable housing can be provided if everybody's prepared to chip in."