Paekākāriki Housing Trust: it takes a community to house us all

Seven years ago, The Paekākāriki Housing Trust was created in response to a local family being unable to find a house for rent in the village. As that project nears completion, with a sale of the house to the whanaū expected shortly,  two of the former trustees, Tina Pope and Holly Jane Ewens, talk about what motivated them to get the trust up and running.

Paekākāriki Housing Trust trustees. L-R: Murray Julian, Sophie Handford, Levi Farrell, Halen Farrell, Tina Pope, Mark Galbraith, Holly Jane Ewens and Keith Johnstone

“I was concerned about the shifting demographic of the village and the lack of voice for those below the bottom rung of the property ladder – renters. I care deeply about preserving the diversity of residents and saw it as a chance to explore opportunities to create change alongside a bunch of great people,” says Holly.

Holly Jane Ewens. Photo supplied

“It happened because it had to happen. It happened through community love, and horror at the situation people were finding themselves in – it’s worse now,” says Tina. “A really vital family just needed a home.”

Tina had previously worked for the Tenant’s Protection Association in Christchurch then at Housing New Zealand as a tenancy manager. “The trust’s work was sort of returning to my roots,” she says. “It’s a housing crisis and there’s nowhere to go in this community, so it just came from that. The initial thing was all around that first project, then it grew from there. Sixty plus people attended the first community hui. It all felt quite possible.”

“I loved how easy it was in the end to secure this house – fifty people in the community made that happen. The speed of it – a little pressure moment and then we pulled it off,” she says.

“There were so many generous and caring people from all different avenues of our village who cared so passionately – willing to donate time and/or money for the greater good,” says Holly. “There are particular wins for the trust which will always stay with me – the village pitching in and helping to keep an integral family in the village is one of them – but overall, I’m most proud of the trust’s tenacity in the face of obstacles, its creative problem solving, and for keeping people, not houses, at its centre.”

Tina also points to the tenacity of the group: “Refusing to take ‘no’ for an answer, refusing to think small, that’s impacted on my current work. You just have your vision and take all possible pathways to it, even though there’s no money and very few paid hours it keeps moving on, and that’s down to the community.”

Tina Pope. Photo supplied

“I’m most proud of making it happen through conversation. Making it happen with no money, not a cent, no capital! We had a really good team. There was a good balance of people, a couple of good ‘slow down anchors’. I was full of ideas – we could do this, we could do that – they kept us grounded.”

After several years as trustees, Holly and Tina have recently left the trust, but both point to the importance of its continuing work.

“I’m not doing any community work now – I’m having a year off!” says Tina. “The trust is needed now more than ever – I just don’t know how anyone can survive on a low income. I’m so appalled at the cost of housing. I want landlords to consider how much they really need in rents – no matter what the market or their property managers tell them.”

“I want the Housing Trust to prioritise Ngāti Haumia – it’s the time to do that – they can’t live here with costs the way they are.”

“Although I’m not working in the housing space, my day job now involves social justice of which brokering, creative problem solving and keeping people at the heart of everything is key,” says Holly. “I’ve learnt that difficult doesn’t mean undoable and that there is always another way to try to tackle complex problems.”

Holly also notes that trust meetings are open to all – and you won’t necessarily get given a job!

“I believe everyone has something worth offering in this space; be it communications expertise, roofing knowledge or development experience – I encourage you to get involved. The people are ace!”

Paekākāriki Housing Trust hui with Tina Pope facilitating. Photo supplied

Paekākā is a community-built, funded and run website. All funds go to weekly running costs, with huge amounts of professional work donated behind the scenes.  If you can help financially, at a time when many supporting local businesses are hurting, we have launched a donation gateway.