After sleeping in a garage for a week in the middle of winter and spending a couple of months boarding with a cousin, 70-year-old John Kiwi will soon have the keys to his own home.
He is one of six people in need of permanent housing who will be opening the doors to their new homes this month, thanks to a joint venture between Nga Potiki a Tamapahore iwi and the Pirihima Whanau Trust.
The $1.25 million community housing project at the Tahuwhakatiki Marae, in Welcome Bay, is just the first stage of a papakainga aimed at addressing the Tauranga housing shortage.
The community housing development at the marae could not have come at a better time, Mr Kiwi said.
"This is the best thing that's happened to my marae.
"This is one of the best things that's happened to me. This couldn't have come at a better time."
Finding a rental property for one person was "just impossible at the moment", he said.
He had boarded with his cousin, also 70, for a couple of months as an affordable alternative.
Mr Kiwi still works casual hours at the Port of Tauranga, after retiring from full-time work in 2010 but said, even for just a one-bedroom unit, rent could be up to $300 a week.
The next stage will be built to support larger families.
Government funding boosted the project by $875,000 and a further TECT grant of $118,000 would cover furnishing the six units with whitewear.
The papakainga was built over the past 10 months.
Six two-bedroom units have been built and are due to house their first residents in the coming weeks.
Pirihima Whanau Trust chairwoman Marita Ranclaud said the trust would probably be subsidising the rent for the new occupants for the first few years.
As a social housing project, they were only allowed to charge rent of up to 30 per cent of a person's income, she said.
The people chosen were beneficiaries or had a low income, with a significant housing need and currently living in sub-standard homes.
Most were older people, with only two of the six under 60.
"They're single people who are low income earners, trying to find a clean, dry home. They just can't afford it," Marita Ranclaud said.
The project was modelled on similar papakainga like the Mangatawa Lane project off State Highway Two, opposite Papamoa.
It is due to be officially opened by Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell on August 29.