Te Ao Māori / Housing

Calls made for separate Māori housing authority

21:20 pm on 23 March 2021

A restart and reset is how Māori housing advocates are describing what needs to happen to the housing system at the Tribunal hearing at Te Puea Marae.

File photo: Emergency housing at Te Puea Marae, where the Tribunal hearing is being held Photo: RNZ / Eva Corlett

It is the second day of the Waitangi Tribunal kaupapa inquiry into claims concerning housing policy and services for Māori.

It seemed a juxtaposition as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and relevant ministers took to the Beehive theatrette to unveil their plans to help first home buyers as well as other housing reforms - while at Te Puea marae in Māngere, community workers, advocates and Māori leaders were giving evidence to the Tribunal of how the Crown has failed Māori when it comes to homelessness and housing.

Te Matapihi general manager Wayne Knox spoke today at the WAI 2750 hearing and said there were 30 recommendations shared with incoming government ministers covering the housing continuum for Māori homelessness.

"Probably more than one claimant, including ourselves has mentioned the potential benefit of setting up a Māori housing authority, we've seen from other inquiries such as the health inquiry the establishment of a Māori health authority which is an important move towards manamotuhake, by Māori for Māori solutions."

File photo: Wayne Knox Photo: RNZ / Meriana Jonsen

He said kaupapa Māori initiatives and a dedicated government investment in Māori housing providers was central and he was underwhelmed by the government's recent housing announcement.

"It just feels like Māori are a bit of an after-thought, the poor cousin syndrome and in theory we can expect to see some trickle down benefit from these investments to Māori but in practice, the realities tell us it's a different story.

There was also a need to remove regulatory barriers for Māori when it came to Papakainga housing development, Knox said.

VisionWest Community Trust Pou Whakarae and University of Auckland Faculty of Medicines kaupapa Māori director Fred Astle said the root of homelessness has been over-researched and the evidence was already clear - it's about Māori providers and Crown agencies working together with strong leadership.

"It needs a hard investment... it's one thing having a policy that may launch a really good budget but that's not even half the work done, we've now got to draw down on how we might strategically work together on these solutions because they are varied... before they even consider home ownership."

Thousands of people are living in emergency housing, such as these cabins run by He Korowai Trust Photo: RNZ/Justine Murray

Astle said there needed to be strategic spending and further investments into housing where there is a collation of the right expertise to develop systems to be better.

"The challenge for Māori to own their own homes is far greater than non-Māori... so what we've got to do is really identify, what are those systemic barriers."

Lifewise Trust youth strategy and development co-ordinator and Manaaki Rangatahi coordinator Bianca Johanson said that manaaki rangatahi was the only youth housing and homelessness collective in Aotearoa and during their last count, there were nearly 2000 16-24 year olds in motel accommodation.

"It's not a housing crisis, it's a human rights crisis.

"We need a strategy, an action plan, we need better recognition within the homelessness action plan."

She said decreasing homelessness meant addressing vulnerabilities in the early stages, at a youth level.

Rangatahi needed more than emergency temporary accommodation, they needed supported living options, Johanson said.

"There's a lot of vulnerability, there's not enough supply and very consistent with everybody else, but unfortunately our rangatahi have the highest form of homelessness in Aotearoa.

"What our kaupapa is all about is we want to prevent and end youth homelessness and the most cost effective, most efficient, the best way to end chronic adult homelessness is to actually have prevention strategies to end youth homelessness."