Maori face barriers to home ownership

By Anna Whyte

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HELPING WHANAU: Inez White aims to help Maori into their own homes. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
HELPING WHANAU: Inez White aims to help Maori into their own homes. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Maori home ownership in Rotorua has plummeted, with one expert saying many Maori are not equipped with sufficient knowledge of the housing market.

Recent Statistics New Zealand data show, between 1986 and 2013, the percentage of Maori living in owner-occupied dwellings dropped in the Rotorua district by 30.8 per cent, which was the third biggest drop following Tauranga city at 38.6 per cent and Carterton district which dropped 31 per cent.

The report found the average ownership drop across the country was 15 per cent for the total population, and 20 per cent for Maori.

Rotorua qualified property valuer Inez White is working to change those statistics, running free workshops to help Maori develop financial literacy and help in the home-buying process. Ms White operates Indigenuity - Whenua with the aim of helping Maori into their own homes.

"Up until recently ... home ownership has been about acquiring papakainga [original home, or home on communal Maori land], your grandparents' home or your parents' home," she said.

"It's only in the last one or two generations that that has really dropped and changed. Where now we actually have to compete in the mainstream market."

She said home ownership and property behaviours were acquired skills.

"It's something that your parents teach you. If you don't have that in the home you have to actually learn it. I think that's the main contributing factor to the plummet in our home ownership."

Ms White said her parents bought their first home in their 50s, but prior to that her family had always lived on their tribal land.

"Through my career and my experiences with my own family, I've acquired property skills, but that is not the norm."

She said, once a generation had acquired those skills, "the cycle begins".

One of those whom Ms White has helped into home ownership is Chey Milne.

Mr Milne said it was an awesome achievement for him and his partner Kahurangi Maxwell to buy their first home.

"Hearing those statistics drives home how lucky we are to be able to purchase it."

Mr Milne said the pair had worked hard to buy the home, which they moved into next week. He credited Ms White with her help getting them through the process. They believed buying their home was about "turangawaewae" and establishing roots.

Labour Party housing spokesman Phil Twyford said the drop in Maori home ownership in the Bay of Plenty may be due to the housing crisis driving a "big gap" between the rich and the poor.

Mr Twyford said it was an important issue to be tackled, which could be solved by "cracking down on property speculators".

"We see this frenzy of property speculation, and the more speculators the harder it is for families to own their own homes."

Waiariki MP and Minister of Maori Development Te Ururoa Flavell said there was a range of reasons for declining home ownership "including high housing costs relative to incomes and a lack of low-cost homes on the market".

"Maori have lower median incomes than non-Maori and higher rates of intergenerational poverty which means whanau find it harder to support the next generation into home ownership.

"The Maori Party introduced a number of grants to support whanau to build papakainga including securing $12 million for the Papakainga infrastructure fund and introducing new criteria for Kainga Whenua loans to make building on multiple-owned Maori land easier."

Building and Housing Minister Nick Smith said the long-term home ownership decline over the 30 years had affected all groups of New Zealanders, which was why the Government had made "such priority of housing reform".

"The productivity commission has done a comprehensive report on what was the core reasons of why houses had become so expensive and why home ownership had declined, they identified the single biggest problem was in the price of the section and the issues of the Resource Management Act. That is why its reform is important to the long-term solution."

Dr Smith said another difficulty for first home buyers was saving deposit which was why the Government introduced the Kiwi Saver Home Start Scheme in 2015.

"I've been particularly encouraged by the high level of uptake of the scheme amongst Maori and Pacific Islanders," Dr Smith said.

The Statistics New Zealand report also showed the proportion of Maori in owner-occupied dwellings had increased in Wellington city, Porirua city and some South Island areas during the time period.

-More information at www.stats.govt.nz < Browse for statistics < People and communities < Housing.

Note in the statistics, some boundaries have changed slightly since 1986. In some territorial authorities, small numbers and higher rates of structural change in populations may skew the data.

Additional reporting Rebecca Malcolm

- Rotorua Daily Post

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