Simon Collins

Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Kids building foundations for real homes

Children's Lego house competition puts focus on Habitat homes for needy families.

Caleb Waititi, 6, eyes his roofline during the Lego house building competition. Photo / Greg Bowker
Caleb Waititi, 6, eyes his roofline during the Lego house building competition. Photo / Greg Bowker

He's only 6, and he is building with Lego rather than real bricks, but Caleb Waititi is helping to spread the word about a campaign to eliminate substandard and overcrowded housing.

Caleb, from West Auckland, was one of about 40 children taking part in the first of a week-long series of Habitat for Humanity Lego-building events which started on Monday at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Parnell.

"I hadn't known anything about Habitat," said Caleb's dad, Thomas, a purchasing and logistics officer.

"On the weekend we came into town to check out the new playground at Wynyard Quarter, and saw a billboard."

Caleb built an elaborate Lego hospital. Joel Parkinson, 8, made a temple. Raymond Thaggard, 11, made "a castle house" complete with grand pillars.

Just over 1000 children around the country joined in a similar event last year. Their entries, either at events or emailed from home, will be featured on the contest website. The best five entrants will be judged by public vote and will receive Lego prizes.

The event follows a Statistics NZ study, published last month, estimating that 34,000 New Zealanders in the 2006 Census suffered "severe housing deprivation", including 22,000 in severe overcrowding, 6300 in boarding houses and camping grounds, 5000 living on the street or in make-shift homes, and 700 in women's refuges and other emergency housing.

More than half of those affected (52 per cent) were under age 25. Habitat for Humanity aims to help those in fulltime or part-time work, who made up a third of the total.

"They have to be in work," said resource and development manager Conrad LaPointe.

"Because we want to transition the family to owning a house, it's difficult to take a chance on a family that is not working. We are helping low-income families whose income is too low to get a commercial loan and who don't have the capacity to save for a deposit."

Families must be living in unhealthy or overcrowded housing and must put at least 500 hours into helping to build their own house. Habitat provides their initial mortgage at just 2 per cent interest, but they have to transfer to a commercial mortgage at market rates after 10 years. By that time, they will have built up enough equity in the house to get a commercial loan.

The charity built 25 new homes around New Zealand last year and aims to build 40 to 50 in the next year, including the first of about 15 Habitat houses in a new 282-unit development at Weymouth in South Auckland.

Habitat Lego events

Today
St Cuthbert's School, 122 Market Rd, Epsom, 10am-4pm
City Focus, Rotorua, 10am-2.30pm

Tomorrow
ReStore, 8 Ormiston Rd, Otara, 10am-4pm
Garden Place, Hamilton, 10am-2.30pm
Bayfair shopping centre, Mt Maunganui, 10am-2.30pm

For more go to www.buildchallenge.org

- NZ Herald

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