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Progressive Home Ownership could help end family poverty

The recent Welfare Expert Advisory Group report which strongly links intergenerational poverty with home ownership is comes as no surprise to global shelter charity, Habitat for Humanity New Zealand.

It is now harder than ever for low and moderate income families to access home ownership. The Welfare Expert Advisory Group report highlights how our system of support assumes that families will eventually own their home, mortgage-free upon retirement. “This is simply not the case for many New Zealanders now.” Says Mr Alan Thorp, Deputy CEO Habitat for Humanity New Zealand. “The median net wealth for Māori as of last year is $29,000 compared with $138,000 for European New Zealanders, so we know that the negative effects of not owning your own home disproportionately affects Māori.”

The Progressive Home Ownership model is a proven pathway to home ownership for low and moderate income families. For over 25 years, Habitat for Humanity New Zealand has assisted 500 families into home ownership across the country, permanently changing their future. “Of the families that we service around half of them are Māori. Our programme has been very successful, with families able to not only improve their immediate situation, but improve the future prospects for their children and grandchildren” says Mr Thorp.

Habitat’s progressive home ownership programme has not only supported families in urban areas, but has also worked with whanau who have built on Papakainga – collectively owned Māori land. “The success of Progressive Home Ownership lies in its holistic approach: an affordable home, a period of stable rental and accompanying support services, the subsidy it requires, and most importantly partnership with a family who is willing to engage and has the potential to maintain a mortgage” says Mr Thorp.

The government is has only adopted a small number of recommendations from the Welfare Expert Advisory Group report. One recommendation that the Habitat hopes the government will implement is progressive home ownership.

“An investment in this type of programme will not go to waste. In all our years of working with thousands of families, we have seen how a decent, stable home and the right kind of support for a family on low incomes can end intergenerational poverty. It works out to be much more cost effective in the long run” explains Mr Thorp.

Groups representing Māori interests are also supporting the push for progressive home ownership. The Independent Māori Statutory Board has publically shared its support for the programme, as well as incorporating it as recommendation in their recent Kainga Strategy for Auckland’s Urban Māori.

“The inequality in housing outcomes – particularly between Māori and non-Māori does not need to remain our normal any more. There are tools available to address this and one way is through progressive homeownership” says Mr Thorp.

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