Describe the concept of Habitat for Humanity New Zealand.
We’re a not-for-profit organisation that works with people to build or improve a place they can call home. Since 1992, Habitat for Humanity has built more than 500 homes across New Zealand and thousands of homes across the Pacific, helping to eliminate barriers to a better, healthier, more financially stable life. With Habitat’s help, families can achieve the strength, stability and independence they need to build a better future for themselves.
How do Habitat’s projects help families into homes?
Habitat provides a wide range of home construction, repair, renovation and advocacy programmes to improve living conditions for families on low to modest incomes. For more than 25 years, our flagship programme has been partnering with Kiwi families on modest incomes to move them into home ownership through a progressive home ownership model. The model has supported more than 500 families into their own homes, significantly transforming their lives. Families selected for a homeownership pathway spend five years renting their home from us at an affordable price and receiving social support as needed.
What about overseas?
Habitat is involved in long-term housing projects across the Pacific. We provide families and communities with the tools and skills they need to build or repair homes so they are resilient to future disasters. We have a relationship with Nepal and support long-term recovery projects after earthquakes or severe flooding. We also send volunteer teams around the world, where they build alongside families in need of decent housing. This year we are hoping to send around 20 teams to countries as near as Fiji and as far away as Chile and Armenia.
Why is having a home, a space to call your own, so important?
A secure, decent house can be a place of healing, a sanctuary to grow and a launching pad to realise hopes for your family. Conversely, a house that is damp, mouldy, crowded or insecure can erode the health and long-term prospects of those living there; much rides on a home. I have seen that the housing ecosystems in the countries where we work can be a millstone for economic success and human development: the rising tide that lifts all boats. Where households cannot purchase or rent housing on the market, effective state and community housing programmes are vital in achieving decent housing for all.
You describe a house as the foundation for a better life. What are some of the opportunities Habitat has enabled by getting Kiwis into homes?
We spend a lot of time working with households in our ‘pre-selection’ phase. We work through their finances, constraints and goals. In some cases, it is the first piece of feedback families have had about their prospects for housing and beyond. We see changes in behaviour as families understand the ramifications and reconsider their options with income, costs, debt and savings. This stability helps families thrive: health improves and school attendance increases; those working might see promotions or take on tertiary study. We’ve seen parents quit smoking, lose weight or start volunteering. Habitat family stories frequently include children who are the first in their families to graduate university. And many Habitat parents from our early days can now boast that all their children have become homeowners themselves. Having your own home provides long-term stability, enables bigger goals to be realised and ultimately changes the prospects of a family inter-generationally.
What is Habitat’s vision for the future of housing in New Zealand?
Hope comes from a number of quarters. The Government has made commitments to addressing homelessness, shortages of state housing and lower-cost housing. New Zealanders continue to care that our people are housed. They express it in a myriad of ways. We’ve seen many people personally hosting fire evacuees or local friends in need during the housing shortage. We’ve seen people volunteer or donate to local housing providers. In the end, we hope – and are working – for a world where everyone has a decent place to live.
Reported by Monica Tischler for our AA Directions Spring 2020 issue