As Georgina Kupa tells it, it was no accident that the proportion of Aucklanders owning their own homes peaked in 1986 - the last year that families could cash in the future value of their family benefits.

Mrs Kupa and her husband Cyril bought their first house in President Ave, Papakura, by capitalising on their family benefits for the two children they had at the time.

From 1946 to 1985, the benefit was paid for every child in the country regardless of their parents' incomes.

And from 1958 to 1986, it was possible to cash in the future benefit payments to pay for a deposit on the family's first house.


That was only possible because the benefit was guaranteed from the time children were born until they turned 16, or 18 if still in fulltime education.

It's impossible with today's targeted family tax credits, because their future value depends on the family's fluctuating and unpredictable income.

In 1969, Georgina and Cyril Kupa were psychiatric nurses at the old Kingseat Hospital. Like Craig Bradley today, who lives in nearby Red Hill, they did other jobs at the weekend to get by.

"I had three jobs at one stage when we started out," Mrs Kupa says. "I used to bike to Drury to pick strawberries in the morning and come back in the afternoon and work in my cousin's fish and chip shop."

They agreed to buy a section in President Ave - $1500 for the section and $15,000 for the house.

"We were the third house in the street," Mrs Kupa recalls.

They needed a fifth of the total value for a deposit - $3300. They were entitled to $1.50 a week in family benefit for the next 12 years for the older daughter, who was 3, and for the next 13 years for the younger one who was 2. That gave them a capital sum of $1950 - more than half what they needed.

"It was a fantastic scheme," Mrs Kupa says. "We wouldn't have been able to buy the house so quickly without that."

Most of the other families who moved into the street bought their houses the same way. They all knew one another.

"All the kids were a similar age because many of us had capitalised," Mrs Kupa says.

Today, as a manager for the Maori Women's Welfare League, she worries that her granddaughter and her partner, who have a new baby, will never be able to own a house. They're paying rent of $420 a week and her grand-daughter has already gone back to work, paying $190 a week to put her baby into childcare.

Craig Bradley and wife Carla pay $340 a week rent but have no prospect of buying a house, even though Craig earns about $900 a week from three jobs. "We'd need $20,000 or $30,000 [for a deposit]," says Craig. "At the moment we haven't got 20 or 30 cents."


Monday: The widening gap
Yesterday: Tax & benefits
Today: Housing
Tomorrow: Health
Friday: Education
Saturday: What to do?