In the face of an escalating housing crisis the community of Paekākāriki have bought a second house to ensure more local whānau don’t have to leave. Mark Amery reports in words and pictures (with help from village artists) on the Paekākāriki Housing Trust’s activities from their August annual community hui.
The Paekākāriki Housing Trust have purchased a second home – Four Te Miti Street. They’ve bought the property from Kāpiti Coast District Council with a loan from Ngāti Toa Rangatira, whose new housing service Te Āhuru Mōwai will manage the property and spend $50-60,000 on the property, including reroofing. A local whānau will move in to it in September. Discounted legal services were provided by Wakefield Lawyers.
“It’s a lovely example,” said co-chair Tina Pope at their annual public hui, ”of working together and not giving up. We get to facilitate the outcome we want, but not be the ones to deliver it.”
This follows the purchase of a first house by the Trust in Tilley Road five years ago, with the help of a group of 20 local investors, to ensure a whānau known for their community mahi could stay in the village. At the time, this move received considerable national interest.
Despite appearances, Four Te Miti Street is no ordinary house. Owned by the Kāpiti Coast District Council to house the village’s long serving council-employed caretaker, Graham Carlsen and whānau, it’s been a valued whare in Paekākāriki for decades. After 28 years of service, in January 2018 Carlsen’s job was disestablished (and with it the concept of a resident Council worker). It was understood the house was considered surplus to requirements and likely to be put on the open market; the Trust asked the council to keep the house as social housing.
For three and a half years since the house has sat empty – with the exception of a short period housing a whānau after a local house fire. This was not well received by many members of the community, myself included. Over this time many friends and neighbours were forced to leave Paekākāriki to live elsewhere because they couldn’t afford the high rentals. Watching Council-paid security guards visit the empty home rubbed salt in the wound.
What was 20 years ago one of the more affordable places in the Wellington region to buy a house is now one of the more expensive. As Councillor Rob McCann commented at the hui, watching people involved in any community forced to move out of that community is “abhorrent”. And as Aristotle once said, ‘nature abhors a vacuum’.
Four Te Miti Street was a public asset, held by Council to serve a community. It wasn’t hard to argue the logic that the property should remain in service by providing community housing. Paekākāriki Housing Trust agreed relatively quickly to find a way to either see Council hold the house for such purposes, or purchase it. Yet, as co-chair Tina Pope commented in announcing the purchase at the hui, “the journey has been long with many cul-de-sacs”.
In December 2018 the house was offered to the Trust at market value, but without assistance this did not allow the Trust the ability to offer an affordable rental – one that would enable whānau to stay in the village who otherwise could not. A social housing model was needed. Facing a sale the Trust on at least two occasions asked Council to delay the sale until it had a proposed KCDC housing policy in place (which might impact their decision) and, further to that, a housing plan in place. Then in February 2020, following the election of a new Council, the Trust asked KCDC to consider gifting the property.
In September 2020, with the window offered to the Trust to purchase about to expire, the Trust asked for more time to explore how a relationship with Ngāti Toa Rangatira might work. An agreement was reached by the end of the year and the settlement eventually came in June this year. This month the Trust has entered a lease agreement with Te Āhuru Mowai. The house was sold at market value, but Te Āhuru Mowai were able to access a government income-related rent subsidy.
The first tenant is a local whānau who have been homeless for some time. There is an agreement for future tenants to be local whānau as long as they are on the emergency housing list.
The Trust was also able to report at the hui on having been slowly, steadily busy on numerous fronts. The Trust’s objectives are twofold. First “to help ensure a strong, diverse and connected community by assisting those people in need to access affordable and appropriate housing in Paekākāriki” and second “to recognise mana whenua’s special connection to this land.”
Different Trustees took turns introducing different work streams, and each was introduced rather neatly with work completed by different local artists.
To commence Pope introduced poet Maria McMillan who read a commissioned poem, placed on a banner by her partner, designer and printer Joe Buchanan. Pope also spoke to the Trust’s work enabling lower income owners to get assistance from the Sustainability Trust to enable a warm, dry home.
“It seems like there are lots of fights going on,” said McMillan by way of explanation, “and I thought that if we are going to fight for something it should be housing.”
Mike Stringfellow spoke to the Trust’s work in providing seven whānau with emergency housing prior and during Covid lockdown in 2020. Stringfellow works as both the Trust’s property manager and coordinator, and the Trust now looks after a range of rental properties in the village. The Trust, he says, does additional maintenance on the properties and in exchange the owners keep the rentals below market rates to ensure the Trust meets its objectives.
This year the Trust have been donated $30,000 to enable them to employ Stringfellow, and administrator Helen Burch, to further its objectives. A housing needs analysis is now underway, says Stringfellow, with a survey of 300 residents and interviews with past and present residents to be completed.
Pope’s co-chair Keith Johnston updated the community on the Wainuiwhenua project. This project sees the community work with Ngāti Toa Rangatira and Wellington Regional Council to find ways to meet community environmental and social objectives in regards to the Transmission Gully surplus land to the east of the village.
Flo McNeill briefly spoke to the water use sustainability study commissioned from her by the Trust, and spoke to the vital partnership involved with mana whenua Ngāti Haumia ki Paekākāriki – to which their co-chair Paranahia Broughton also spoke.
Community Board member and Paekākāriki School teacher, Jess Hortop, introduced a research project conducted by tamariki at her school which, through writing and art, spoke powerfully to the loss for the community when housing is scarce.
Trustee Linda McLaughlan spoke to a fledgling artist in residency programme, while Murray Julian introduced the Trust’s advocacy work.
Trustee Holly Jane Ewens introduced the ‘Secondary Dwellings Kete’, a bundle of resources the Trust is developing to make it easy for local residents to add further small dwellings to their properties. A secondary dwelling is on the cards for Four Te Miti Street.
After a presentation by Councillor for Housing Rob McCann and KCDC’s Steve Flude, that spoke to how strongly KCDC’s position on housing has changed under the current Council, Mana MP Barbara Edmonds spoke in response, pointing to the failure in housing by successive governments.
“There was a presenter earlier who said that a good community is not by accident,” Edmonds commented. “This Trust is why it’s not here by accident.”
Mark Amery was a founding member of the Paekākāriki Community Trust and is a managing editor of Paekākāriki.nz. He was a cofounder of vacant space brokerage Urban Dream Brokerage. The views expressed here are his own.