Nine houses in a Northland papakainga project will be home to 17 adults and 43 children who were previously in "horrible" living conditions such as cow sheds, buses and condemned houses.

The papakainga houses, an on-site puna reo (a parent-led Maori early childhood centre) and emergency housing accommodation for singles and couples has been opened in Kaitaia by He Korowai Trust.

Trust CEO Ricky Houghton said after four years spent working on the project it was a relief to see them finally opened.

"It was a relief to say we have done it and for me it was sincere gratitude to those who supported the project."


The Whanau Ora papakainga project saw the trust move whanau living in poor conditions to affordable home ownership. Families will pay $250 per week and after 17 years it is envisioned they will own the homes.

"There are 17 adults and 43 children who were living in bottom-rung homes. Whanau who were living in horrible conditions - condemned homes, cow sheds, lean-tos, and buses. I think it proves what can happen when you make the most vulnerable families a priority," Mr Houghton said.

Mr Houghton mortgaged his home to help fund the project which was also funded through dollar for dollar government funding.

He said families started moving into the papakainga homes last weekend. Some were parents with children, some grandparents with their moko and there was also a solo dad moving in with his kids.

"Every day they tell me how thankful they are to be in there but for me I see it in the faces of the children.

They invite me inside to look at their rooms because they've never had their own room. Kids laugh and play, it's everything I hoped it would be," he said.

The families living in the papakainga will be under a strict no alcohol, no illegal drugs and no violence policy. They will have access to the puna reo and free specialist support like budgeting and home ownership courses.

Mr Houghton said there will also be a vegetable garden, fruit trees, cows for milk and meat, chickens for eggs on site. Meanwhile, the emergency accommodation, which also opened last week, consists of 35 one-bedroom apartments for singles and couples.

"There is no other emergency housing for singles and couples in Kaitaia. They can come here for up to 90 days," he said.