December 11, 2023

Young Tauranga couple get a hand up on to property ladder

Tauranga couple Kea Smith and Joe Hughes with their son at their new home. Photo / Carmen Hall

Kea Smith and Joe Hughes never imagined they could afford a house in Tauranga.

But on Friday, the couple, aged in their early 20s, accepted the keys to a new build in Pāpāmoa. Standing in the lounge, the pair were still pinching themselves over their good fortune.

Smith, who works for the iwi Ngāi Te Rangi, said it was an emotional day made possible by Habitat for Humanity’s progressive ownership programme.

“I cried. We are so grateful and thankful for the opportunity.”

The couple used to live in a small porta cabin at Smith’s parents’ property with their toddler, Tukorehu before they moved into a rental property with Smith’s sister. It was hard being confined to the tiny space.

Smith was expecting another baby, and said her three-bedroom home could not have come at a better time.

Hughes said he felt “overwhelmed with joy”.

The exterior plasterer said now his family could move forward.

“This is life-changing. We are finally moving in the direction we want to.”

Habitat for Humanity Bay of Plenty central region general manager Nic Greene said the programme was able to reach people from all stages of life.

He said it was really backing Smith and Hughes to succeed and realise their housing aspirations.

The home in Pāpāmoa was the fifth of six houses it had contracted Venture Development to build in the suburb.

Under the progressive homeownership programme, three of 13 homes have also been built in Rotorua with support from Bay Trust and the Government.

“After a few years of us not having much activity in Rotorua, we’ve now got a really good pipeline of properties coming on. We are taking expressions of interest, and people should reach out if they are interested in the programme.”

There was a sweat equity contribution required from approved applicants. In the past, people would help build the house, but due to health and safety regulations and efficiency, that changed.

“They do education courses, and we [have a] range of programmes around financial literacy, home maintenance and those kinds of things. We recognise engagement in the community, so if they volunteer at a second-hand shop, or coach a football team – anything along those lines.

“Anything that benefits the community.”

The programme was a rent-to-buy model, and families spent their first five years in the home as tenants.

“They pay an affordable market rent. It pays costs and the balance goes towards the deposit, along with any equity gains.”

Next month, Habitat for Humanity will celebrate its 30th anniversary doing rent-to-buy homes. It had built 600 nationally, with about 170 in the central North Island.

Greene said demand for housing had increased but it was limited by access to capital.

“The housing crisis hasn’t gone away, it’s subtly changed. House prices have softened … but it’s still not accessible to low-income and some middle-income families.

“We need these mechanisms that help people progress into homeownership.”

Carmen Hall is a news director for the Bay of Plenty Times and Rotorua Daily Post, covering business and general news. She has been a Voyager Media Awards winner and a journalist for 25 years.

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