Maori households living in sheds or buses in the Far North have been offered a rare chance to own a home - with a few strings attached.

They have been moved into $130,000 houses on land owned by a Maori trust in Kaitaia, and pay no deposit.

Over the next 17 years, the families will purchase the houses under a rent-to-buy scheme, after which they own them on a freehold basis.

There are strict rules for owners, including no alcohol, drugs or violence, compulsory attendance at budgeting and other programmes, and compulsory enrolment in on-site NZQA-approved courses and Maori immersion schools.


So far the scheme, run by the He Korowai Trust, has housed 17 adults and 43 children. They are living in ex-state houses from Glen Innes, which had been set for demolition before they were moved north.

It is one of several innovative housing initiatives which will be considered by a newly-established programme called Pathways to Home Ownership, or Te Ara Mauwhare.

The programme has been given initial funding of $9m over three years in this month's Budget, part of a total of $27 million secured by the Maori Party for Maori housing initiatives.

It will investigate and fund initiatives which could help lift the Maori home ownership rate from a paltry 28 per cent - well below the national level of around 50 per cent.

Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell said the Government had "a heap" of housing policies, but "sometimes they don't hit the mark" for Maori.

"There's plenty of money around in terms of other issues around emergency and social housing," he said.

"But what we're trying to do is allow people to move into ownership of their house, as opposed to just filling a space or social housing or just straight renting.

"We obviously want people to have their own homes that are safe, secure and healthy. And we believe there's some room in here to trial out a few things that might work out and investigate how better we can utilise the resources out there."

The He Korowai Trust's programme was creating ownership possibilities for people who "never, ever dreamt of owning a home", he said.

Another initiative which Te Ara Mauwhare will be looking at is Auckland-based trust Ngati Whatua Orakei's communal housing scheme near Bastion Point.

When the development was opened last year, the trust's deputy chairman Ngarimu Blair said banks would not lend to its families because the land was communally-owned and the banks could not get security over it.

Under the scheme, the trust borrows from banks to on-lend to whanau so they can buy the homes, most of which are priced at an "affordable" level of $550,000. The buyers then lease the property for 150 years.

Ngati Whatua aims to eventually house 3000 people on its ancestral land, which was purchased back from the Crown in 1996.

Flavell said it was another example of how iwi and Maori trusts were being innovative, and using their capacity to take on risk.

"That's what we want to investigate - what works well, and whether we can roll it out further."

Maori economic development agency Te Puni Kokiri would partner with the iwi organisations to test whether their schemes were feasible.

On top of the money for Te Ara Mauwhare, another $8m will go towards the Maori Housing Network, or Kainga Ora.

The network was launched in 2015 and manages several funds which subsidise the building of affordable homes, renovations, and housing projects for Maori.

A further $10m would go towards a scheme which focuses on repair, restoration and insulation of marae and meeting houses.