Maori Housing Conference, Turangawaewae

Morena koutou and thank you to the conference organisers and our hosts Waikato-Tainui for the opportunity to speak today.

A little over a year ago, the Coalition Government made it plain this is a government formed to effect positive change.

Change will take courage because change can be unsettling to the status quo.

Change will mean collaboration and cooperation.

Change means we will have to do things differently.

Māori have been particularly hard-hit by the housing crisis.

  • Māori home ownership rates are only 43% compared to 63% for the general population;
  • Māori make up 36% of public housing tenants yet comprise just under 15% of the general population;
  • Māori are 5 times more likely than Pakeha to be homeless; and
  • Many Māori live in sub-standard or unsuitable housing, with negative impacts on their health, education, employment and other social outcomes.

I know many of you work with whanau facing these issues on a daily basis.

Unfairness on this scale is unacceptable to this Government.

The Honourable Nanaia Mahuta, Honourable Jenny Salesa and I meet on a regular basis as the Maori Housing Ministers Group.

We are taking a two-pronged approach.

We want to ensure all policy across housing and urban development works for Māori, and we are developing initiatives designed to meet Māori needs and aspirations.

I understand Minister Mahuta spoke to you yesterday about the second approach - our special initiatives for Maori housing, including the Government’s plans for papakainga housing; and removing the barriers to building on Māori land.

So I’d like to spend the rest of my time on how we are making sure our broader housing policy works for Māori.

 

Throughout our shared history, where the market has failed to provide adequate housing, the state has had to step in.

In 1905 New Zealand became the first nation in the Western world to provide public housing.

Faced with expensive, overcrowded and unsanitary housing in the inner cities, the Liberal Government of Dick Seddon built houses in the suburbs to provide an alternative for working-class families.

For most of the 20th century, the state provided some form of financial assistance for those wanting to buy a home.

In the 1930s the first Labour Government embarked on an ambitious state housing programme to offset shortages caused by the Depression and an increasing population.  

It wasn’t until 1948 that Māori could participate in mainstream state housing, as Māori migration to the cities increased.

Maori Affairs expanded their housing portfolio during the 1950s and by the mid-60s was making over 1,000 houses available, and the State Advances Corporation was providing hundreds of loans and state rentals for Maori.

Maori Affairs Housing, alongside concessional mortgage finance provided by State Advances, and the ability to capitalise the Family Benefit for a deposit, put generations of whanau into their own homes during the fifties, sixties and seventies. 

Sadly, successive governments abandoned direct intervention to promote home ownership for first home buyers. In 1991, 57% of Maori whanau lived in homes they owned. Maori home ownership fell to 43% by 2013.

We can look back over the history of government intervention in housing and take some comfort that the hands-off approach of the past few decades has been something of an aberration.

We again have a Government now that is determined to intervene to ensure every family has a warm, dry and affordable home.

I take inspiration from what Michael Joseph Savage said about state housing: "We are trying to cater for everyone ... we do not claim perfection, but we do claim a considerable advance on what has been done in the past."

I know some of you will be familiar with our overall housing programme, but some will not, so I want to give you a brief summary before moving on to the opportunities it presents for Māori.

Our priorities to address the housing crisis are:

  • Building affordable houses through KiwiBuild;
  • Increasing the supply of public housing;
  • Ending homelessness;
  • Modernising tenancy rules to enable more secure rental housing, and setting standards to make sure all rentals are warm and dry;
  • Establishing an Urban Development Authority with the tools to make room for growth in our cities;
  • Progressing an Urban Growth Agenda to drive changes to urban land and infrastructure.

You will be aware of our particular focus on KiwiBuild.

This is our plan to address the chronic shortage of modest, affordable starter homes for first home buyers; homes the market on its own does not provide.

Ensuring Māori benefit from KiwiBuild, and secure a fair share of the houses, is a priority.

When I recently announced $38 million in infrastructure to allow housing to be built on the shores of Lake Waikare at Te Kauwhata, Waikato-Tainui kaumatua Robert Tukuri challenged me as the Maori TV cameras were rolling to make sure some of the houses there would be Kiwibuild.

I went back a few months later to announce 175 Kiwibuild homes will be built as part of that development. Robert came back as well, and challenged me again in front of the Maori TV cameras to ensure that Maori would be able to afford those Kiwibuild homes.

I welcome that challenge.

We know Māori are generally under-represented when it comes to home ownership.

But we also know that 13 percent of those households who have enough income to service a mortgage on a KiwiBuild home are Māori households.

This suggests there is potential for a large number of whānau Māori to benefit from KiwiBuild.

But there might be other factors which make this more difficult for Māori, especially the challenge of saving enough for a deposit.

In the 1960s, when most home loans came from the state, a family could ‘capitalise’ the family benefit to raise the deposit, and then secure a State Advances loan.

The financial world is very different today.

We are working on ways to broaden the pool of first home buyers to include more Māori households.

That includes looking for inspiration at schemes led by non-government organisations, such as the shared equity programme Te Tumu Kāinga has provided at the Waimahia Inlet development and others.

We are laying the foundations right now for Kiwibuild. It’s my vision that we will in time put alongside Kiwibuild a shared equity programme, and the kind of financial capability outreach to whanau that will help them plan and save and get into a situation where they feel confident about taking on a mortgage.

Ensuring a supply of affordable homes, financial assistance for first home buyers, and direct engagement with whanau – that was the magic combination of Maori Affairs housing that was so successful during the time of our parents and grandparents.

 

But when 57% of Maori are renters, we have to do more than just promote home ownership.

We need to build more public housing. And modernise the tenancy laws to make life better for renters.

Reforms to the Residential Tenancies Act will promote stable tenancies in the private rental market; and the Healthy Homes Guarantee Act will introduce minimum standards for warmer, drier rental homes.

We also recognise demand for public housing, for families who can’t afford to rent in the private market, is also outstripping supply.

Of all the applicants on the Public Housing Register, the single largest ethnicity is Māori at 44%.

In this year’s Budget we’ve made a steady start, providing funding to increase the supply of public housing by 6,400 over the next 4 years.

On that basis, I would expect approximately 3,000 of these new state and community provided homes will go to Māori.

We are re-focusing the work of Housing New Zealand so they can be a more compassionate landlord, and significantly ramp up their build programme to supply desperately needed state housing.

And we are continuing to build partnerships with Maori community housing providers to deliver some of those new homes. 

 

For those facing immediate housing needs, we’re investing more funding in transitional housing in high-need regions, to place up to 34,000 families and individuals over the next 4 years.

Again, we believe Māori will benefit from these measures.

Another priority for the Māori Housing Ministers is preventing and responding to Māori homelessness.

As an immediate response while we increase the supply of long term public housing, we provided 1,742 additional places over this past winter, exceeding our target of 1,537.

People who have been homeless for a long time, and face multiple and complex issues, require a different response to those who find themselves temporarily without housing.

That’s why we’re expanding programmes like Housing First.

We’re boosting funding for existing Housing First programmes in Auckland, Tauranga, Wellington, the Hutt Valley and Christchurch, and starting new programmes in Northland and Whangarei, Rotorua, Hawke’s Bay, and Blenheim and Nelson.

True to the label, the idea behind Housing First is that a homeless person is first found a home, and then supported to address the issues that led to their homelessness.

It is much easier for people to address complex issues, such as mental health problems and addiction, once they have the security of a roof over their head.

The support services will help them to make positive steps towards a healthier and safer life, reduce harmful behaviours, set goals, integrate with the community and connect to iwi and whānau.

The aim is to end homelessness, not just to manage it.

We are seeking a collaborative approach with iwi and hapū to deliver Housing First in each region, and the adoption of a kaupapa Māori approach.

For example, last month my colleague Nanaia Mahuta launched Housing First in Rotorua, which is a partnership led by Taumata o Ngāti Whakaue Trust, LinkPeople and Lifewise.

I also want to acknowledge the work of other Māori organisations in response to homelessness, such as Te Puea Marae in Mangere, and the emergency housing provided by Ngāti Porou in Gisborne.

 

Earlier, I mentioned the need for real change in housing.

Looking to the future, there are further opportunities for innovative and enduring partnerships with Māori.

The first is the new Ministry of Housing and Urban Development.

The new Ministry will take the lead on driving progress in Māori housing.

The new Chief Executive, Andrew Crisp, will be speaking to you shortly, however it is essential that the new Ministry not only engages with Māori across all housing policy, but has the capability to understand and respond effectively to Māori housing issues.

To that end, Andrew and his team are moving to establish a Maori Housing Unit to provide that dedicated capability.

And I’m very happy to announce the Prime Minister has appointed my colleague the Hon Nanaia Mahuta  Associate Minister of Housing and Urban Development with responsibility for Maori Housing. She’ll have my total support and we will be working together to ensure our housing policies and programmes deliver for Maori.

 

We are committed to ensuring Government policies deliver for Maori, through Kiwibuild, building more public housing, and ending homelessness. But we also recognise Maori can be and are already part of the solutions.

As Minister I have already received a great deal of help from your sector. I want to thank you for that.

From the informed and considered advocacy of Te Matapihi, and the Independent Maori Statutory Board.

To Ngai Tahu and their commercial property operation stepping up to take on large scale commercial development.

To the Tamaki iwi who have sat down with us in recent months to hammer out how the Crown and iwi can partner together on kthe precious development site at Wairaka.

To the innovative delivery of services for people who are homeless by Te Puea Marae.

And He Korowai Trust’s work helping whanau into supported home ownership.
There is so much creative and entrepreneurial work going on.

Another example is the Waikato-Tainui redevelopment of the former Jebson Place housing in Hamilton – holding workshops with prospective home-owners to learn about mortgages and the like, so they have the best opportunity to succeed.

Partnerships with iwi and other Māori organisations are becoming a significant feature of the KiwiBuild programme.

As Treaty settlements are completed, iwi are increasingly looking to invest land and capital in developments that will supply much needed housing.  

Without those partnerships we would have less land to build on.

The Land for Housing programme currently has, or is working on, 11 agreements in partnership with iwi for potentially 2,260 KiwiBuild homes.

The total yield across the 11 iwi partnerships to date could be 5,369, as most of the developments are mixed, including public housing and papakainga, as well as market housing.

Although most of these developments have been in Tāmaki Makaurau, we are also working with iwi on a number of developments in other regions.

KiwiBuild is an opportunity to harness the Māori entrepreneurial spirit, and iwi are ideally placed to support the scale of these developments.

 

Another significant aspect of change in housing will be the establishment of an Urban Development Authority, to carry out large-scale, complex developments.

This will create significant opportunities for Māori.

The UDA will have wide-ranging powers to transform suburbs, cutting through the roadblocks to development.

It means we can engineer outcomes that the market cannot or will not provide, ensuring there is a diversity of housing available.

The UDA will be a powerful tool to empower partnership with Maori in housing and will protect the interests of Māori.

Where the UDA carries out functions normally carried out by local authorities under the Resource Management Act, any existing participation rights for Māori are still provided for.

We are currently refining proposals which will allow Māori organisations to share in the governance and leadership of these projects.

This is about better outcomes for urban whānau and their communities and making sure that the urban environment reflects their needs and aspirations.

Only recently we announced the Porirua redevelopment with Ngati Toa that will revitalise the East with 2,900 new state houses and 2,000 Kiwibuild and market houses. In the West, the partnership will upgrade and manage 900 properties.

This is a ground breaking new approach. Ngati Toa had Rights of First Refusal on a large number of state houses from their treaty settlement. We used that as a starting point and together have put together a partnership between the Crown, Ngati Toa and the Porirua City Council to invest $1.5 billion into the regeneration of Eastern Porirua while establishing Ngati Toa as a public housing provider in the Western side.

Part and parcel of the change agenda in housing is the Urban Growth Agenda, which aims to address the fundamentals of land supply, development capacity, and infrastructure provision.

Our main aim with the UGA is to improve housing affordability, by making urban land more affordable.

This will also serve the wider objectives of improving access to employment, education and services; and reducing emissions through better transport links.

One example where iwi will be involved within the UGA is in spatial planning for the Auckland to Hamilton corridor.

This is about making sure Māori participate at a broader, strategic level in the future of housing and urban development.

 

The new Ministry for Housing and Urban Development aims to see beyond the Crown’s obligations under Treaty settlements, and to pro-actively engage with iwi as development partners.

For iwi, this is not necessarily just a case of leveraging their financial assets, as some of the groups have received relatively modest amounts of cash and land in settlements.

The drivers are also social and cultural.

The involvement of iwi in these developments will help to achieve broader outcomes, such as unlocking opportunities for papakainga, building the capacity of Māori as developers, and also through training and apprenticeships for rangatahi.

Iwi also bring a different perspective to these projects, focusing on the long term needs of local people, in contrast to the short term drivers which traditionally characterise the development sector.

 

In conclusion, the thread which runs through our response to Māori housing is partnership.

We know from our shared history that the state needs to get involved in housing if outcomes for Māori are to improve and our dreams are to be realised.

But when a strong state partners with Maori and the wider community, then I think we can really achieve our goals.

Ka mahi au, ka inoi au, ka moe au, ka mahi ano.

I work, I pray, I sleep, and then I work again.

Those are the words of a woman of action Te Puea Herangi who strived through hard work and strong relationships to build a legacy of sustainable enterprise and wellbeing.

We cannot do this alone. We must do it together.

I invite you to join with us in creating a better future. A future that is fair and just and where the wellbeing of all our people is at the heart of all we do.

President Kennedy had a small plaque on his desk that he cherished. It said “Oh God, thy sea is so great and my boat is so small.”

I need you in that boat with me.

No reira, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatou katoa.