Healthy Homes Initiative helps whānau but more needed - Te Matapihi

By Mana Wikaire-Lewis

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been spruiking a report on the government's $30 million Healthy Homes Initiative that shows it has helped 142,000 people live in warm, dry homes.

But, while the prime minister is pushing her 'government success' line as opposition political parties go on the traditional pre-election year attack, a leading Māori advocate says housing issues are in fact increasing.

The report found the scheme, which gives low-income families insulation, heaters, curtains, bedding and other minor repairs to make houses warmer, has had a tangible impact on families.

The initiative covers 11 regions in the North Island and will be expanded to the whole country by the end of the year.

Though Housing Minister Megan Woods says the government is on track to fix the housing crisis, Māori housing advocacy group Te Matapihi general manager Wayne Knox (Waikato Tainui) says it will take multiple terms and multiple governments to see the issue resolved.

Is the government doing enough to tackle the housing crisis?

'Stay the course'

“It’s going to require consistent investment from government and ongoing innovation but what we are seeing is a lot of the right ingredients that need to be there.

“The key is that we need to stay the course.”

Though time has passed since the country came out of lockdowns, Knox says existing issues have been exacerbated and their underlying issues have been brought to light, such as the emergency housing situation in Rotorua.  

“What we are still seeing is high demand for supportive housing services, social and public housing. If anything, it’s still on the increase at the moment.”

Even after reading the report on the initiative, Knox says, from a Māori perspective, more can be done to make a healthy home complete – not just with the quality of its inside but also taking into account the cultural needs of whānau Māori.

“Things like access to employment, transportation, whether homes are meeting our cultural needs as well, whether they’re providing for intergenerational living and so on.”