speech at launch of Housing scoping study for Pacific people

  • John Delamare
Housing New Zealand Ltd

Talofa lava, kia orana, malo e lelei, ni sa bula, fakaalofa atu, malo ni, halo olaketa, namaste, greetings, good evening and welcome to the launch of the ‘Scoping report on the status of housing for Pacific peoples.'

Housing has been recognised by the Government as a key issue for Pacific peoples for many years, in fact this report is in part the result of a select committee directive in May 1997 for the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs to make Pacific housing a priority within its policy agenda.

Housing was also identified as a key issue at the highly successful Pacific Vision international conference held last month here in Auckland. This is the first time a document of this type that focuses specifically on the housing status of Pacific peoples has been written.

In August 1998, this Ministry in partnership with the then Ministry of Housing, held a series of focus group meetings in Auckland and Wellington.
The purpose of those meetings was to outline existing housing policies and to explore opportunities that existed for Pacific peoples in terms of those policies.

The clear message from those focus group meetings was that there was need for hard data on the status of housing for Pacific peoples to support the considerable anecdotal evidence that many of us are familiar with, such as crowding, high rentals, extended family living, poor housing design and so on.

This report has gathered and reviewed information that is currently available on the status of Pacific peoples' housing in New Zealand into one document.

More importantly this report also outlines the linkages and flow-on effects the housing of Pacific peoples has on their health, education, poverty and their overall social well being.

This report identifies key housing data and statistics together with policy responses to date, and areas where there needs to be further research on the New Zealand situation to provide hard, quantitative data.

It is a starting point that will help form the basis on which housing policies that are responsive to the needs of Pacific peoples can be developed.

In the housing stakes, Pacific peoples are at the bottom of the heap. Pacific peoples own the fewest houses and are more likely to live in rented accommodation housing. Compared to the rest of New Zealand Pacific peoples are:

· Less likely to be living as owner-occupiers. Only 44.4% of Pacific peoples own their own homes compared to 70.7% for all New Zealand;

· Pacific peoples are likely to have higher occupancy rates in their houses, that is 4.3 people per household compared to 2.8 for the overall population; the most common household size for Tokelauans, Samoans, Tongans and Niueans is 7 or more people.

· Pacific people are more likely to be living as extended families, 37% in comparison to the main ethnic groups. However Pacific families whose living conditions were crowded were twice as likely (74%) to belong to an extended family;

· According to the Canadian national occupancy standard, used in one analysis of the 1996 census data, 74.6% of people identified as either Pacific people or Maori were more likely to be living in crowded conditions.

It is not possible on the basis of current information or in terms of hard quantifiable evidence to be 100 per cent sure of the causes of such characteristics, although the younger age of the Pacific population is a factor. The median age of Pacific peoples is 20.4 years, whereas the median age for the general population is 32.3 years.

However in my view income is an obvious factor. Figures from the 1996 census showed that people of unemployed status were more likely to live in rented dwellings. For Pacific peoples, government transfers, including unemployment benefits, is their second main source of income.

The median annual income for Pacific peoples was around $12,400 compared to $15,600 for the New Zealand population overall. Affordability of housing is a serious issue when households have limited residual income after paying fixed costs such as rent.

Lower personal income may encourage people to share housing in order to minimise costs, but comparative analysis of household incomes from the 1996 census shows that household incomes for most of the individual Pacific groups is still less than the national median.

Most of the information we have on the relationship between health and housing, comes from overseas research. There is a relationship between a range of poor housing conditions and health problems, but the results are not usually strong enough to show proof of cause and effect.

In my view there is a linkage between poor housing and poor educational achievement. Children living in overcrowded homes face ill health and sleeplessness that can make it difficult for effective learning during the day at school. Noise, crowding, lack of space, and lack of resources can make homework or studying at night difficult or impossible.

A study by J Davey ‘From birth to death III' (1993), noted that the relative disadvantage of Pacific children with respect to household income would be worse if Pacific peoples on average did not live in large households.

This housing report highlights the need for effective targeting to achieve better outcomes for Pacific peoples. Significantly, it calls for responsible agencies to work together in a co-ordinated and cohesive fashion.

There is work that is underway with the Ministry of Health, on crowding and to identify health problems associated with housing; Te Puni Kokiri on extended family living; and Housing New Zealand on possible barriers to accessing suitable housing.

More needs to be done.

The Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs will be working closely with the Social Policy Agency housing unit to develop a series of forward plans to achieve the objective of having adequate housing for Pacific peoples incorporated in any plans targeting low-income peoples.

It will not be easy but I look forward to the successful outcome of their efforts and to a significantly improved housing status for Pacific peoples in the new millennium.