Community Housing Aotearoa Conference Speech

Talofa lava, fakaalofa lahi atu, kia orana, mālō e lelei, ni sa bula vinaka and tēnā koutou katoa.

Thank you for the invitation to be part of your conference today.

I’ve only been a Minister for 112 days, so it’s quite the privilege to be in a room with powerhouse people who house our families. Fa’afetai tele lava.

Can I start by acknowledging the Community Housing Aotearoa leadership team for hosting this event and providing the platform for this talanoa.

I also want to acknowledege local government members and Ministry officials who are here as well.  

To the Community Housing providers – I am very much looking forward to hearing more about what you are doing to support Pacific housing opportunities. It is your commitment that will help us achieve a brighter future and to flip what the statistics tell us.

And it’s our job as Government to work with Pacific peoples and you, to support and enable better housing, in genuine active partnership so that all Pacific families have safe, healthy, and affordable homes.

As we all know, Pacific families and communities have been disproportionately impacted by New Zealand’s housing environment for decades.

When I was a child, we had up to 23 people living in our house. Our house was the transit lounge for our families when they migrated from Samoa. We always had beds, or those days mattresses on the floor, because when the day shift came home, the night shift went to work.

Those were the sacrifices my parents made to make sure there was a roof over our family’s head. The unfortunate thing though is that these challenges have only gotten harder for our Pacific families.

These challenges have been exacerbated by the lingering impact of COVID-19 and the recent severe weather events, which are sadly becoming more frequent.

As I mentioned, statistics for Pacific housing paints the context of what we’re working to solve and it’s a sobering picture for our communities.

Statistics recorded as at March 2023 tell us that 26% of all households in public housing identify as Pacific.

17% of all households on the Public Housing register identify as Pacific.

And over 45% of Pacific peoples live in damp housing and over 41% live in homes with visible mould.

As a Government, we are under no illusions – there is no quick, easy, single fix to these, and we need to work together.

What is required is a series of actions with interconnected policy and funding, that combines a responsive resource management system with more direct housing policies and solutions, including policies that that are effectively targeted to the needs and aspirations of Pacific peoples.

Put simply, we need to build more houses together.

That is why we launched ‘Fale mo Aiga’, the Pacific Housing Strategy in just November last year.

Led by the three Pacific housing agencies – Ministry for Pacific Peoples, Housing, Urban and Development (HUD) and Kāinga Ora – Fale mo Aiga was born from stories and hopes that Pacific communities shared at regional talanoa since 2018.

Translating to ‘houses for families’, the strategy reflects our strong focus on home ownership as a means of transferring intergenerational wealth and reversing the socio-economic disadvantage that Pacific peoples face every day.

The strategy sets out four key priority areas:

  • Building intergenerational Pacific wealth through home ownership.
  • Building affordable, quality, fit for purpose homes for Pacific families.
  • Developing and growing the Pacific housing sector.
  • Influencing and strengthening the housing system to improve housing outcomes for Pacific peoples.

I want to see these priorities better support access to affordable, quality housing and pathways to home ownership.

That includes through the take-up of the Pacific Building Affordable Homes Fund and Progressive Home Ownership Scheme for Pacific families.

Schemes that helped my parents and family members into their own homes during the 1980's.

In my own electorate, we’re putting our money where our mouth is, with over $49 million allocated in Budget 2022, we’ve got the goal of building up to 300 homes over the next 10 years for Pacific families in Eastern Porirua.

This initiative provides an opportunity for local Pacific community to have a say in the design and development of the build. Because a two to three bedroom home isn’t appropriate for intergenerational living.

It is a tangible step for how we can build better for Pacific, by Pacific.

We are also building on the over $41 million investment we have made in Budget 2020 towards the Improving Housing for Pacific Families and Communities Initiative.

A key factor in this initiative is better financial literary services so families can cope with economic shocks and save towards home ownership.

In 2021, the Ministry for Pacific Peoples launched the Pacific Financial Capability Development programme.

As a result of this work, we’ve already seen 15 providers contracted under this programme.

Home ownership is becoming a realistic goal for over 2,000 Pacific people who have enrolled, with 80 families having bought their first home since the programme was launched.

To give you an idea of how what they learn is used, 23 families have prevented the loss of their homes through mortgagee sales.

Another success under Fale mo Aiga is that 725 Pacific households have completed the Pacific People’s Pathway to Home Ownership Financial Literacy programme through the Retirement Commission programme.

Of these, four families have bought new homes.

12 Pacific churches are having feasibility reports developed on the land they own to explore housing development opportunities. Initial analysis shows there is a potential to build 800 – 1,200 homes over 72 acres of land.

And as part of the Pacific Building Affordable Homes Fund, the Ministry for Pacific Peoples is in contract negotiations with eight organisations to deliver up to 66 homes for Pacific families in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and South Otago.

Six Pacific organisations are receiving support from the Community Housing Provider (CHP) registration support programme and are on track to achieve CHP registration by June 2024.

I’m also aware that the team at Community Housing Solutions, the team who are also behind today’s conference, have been having a series of talanoa with Pacific organisations over the past few months which will culminate in a new Pacific network of housing organisations.

I look forward to seeing more Pacific providers joining Penina Trust in delivering housing solutions for Pacific peoples.

Having more Pacific organisations will strengthen housing responses for Pacific and provide a more tailored and culturally appropriate services.

Achieving Pacific housing outcomes is growing momentum. But collectively as a sector, we need to get better.

We have a whole generation of Pacific peoples who do not own their own homes, are facing homelessness or are in desperate need to have a place they can call home that is safe, warm, dry, and affordable.

The work is not completed and I want to acknowledge Hon Marama Davidson who’s also here today – my colleague and friend.

We know there’s more mahi to do.

Working with the sector to deliver better housing outcomes for all New Zealanders including our Pacific peoples and communities, is something I am committed to and I know that together, we can continue to drive change.

Fa’afetai tele lava.