A ‘hand up’ approach to assist Kiwi families into new, affordable housing has proved a winning formula by delivering significant social and wellbeing benefits, according to research recently commissioned by the New Zealand Housing Foundation.
The Housing Foundation, with support from the Tindall Foundation, has pioneered a new era of affordable housing. It has combined with partners to assist working families on low incomes into new, quality homes and on the pathway to home ownership, through its affordable housing programmes (affordable equity and affordable rentals) which aim to grow strong, safe neighbourhood communities. An important aspect of this approach is ‘place-making’, the intentional development of healthy sustainable communities, beyond the mere provision of houses.
The key aim of the Foundation’s Affordable Planned Housing research project* was to determine whether planned, quality, affordable housing developments impact positively on a household’s wellbeing and quality of life. It used the Foundation’s Glen Eden development, completed three years ago, as a case study. In-depth interviews with resident households within and outside of the Foundation’s development were conducted.
Encouragingly, the Foundation found many long term, far reaching improvements to the lives and wellbeing of all the Glen Eden development residents interviewed.
Key changes included increased participation in community life; greatly improved health; less demand for healthcare services; a reduction in school absenteeism in families with school aged children and an increased sense of security, safety, community connectedness and overall wellbeing.
In terms of statistics, for example, 81% said their sunny, well insulated and dry home is far more effective at keeping winter and respiratory illnesses to a minimum. More than 80% of residents also rated their quality of life as extremely good or good in their present home, compared with just 46% in their previous home. Residents noted enhanced enjoyment of, and participation in community life, as the biggest drivers to improving their quality of life. Nearly two thirds of residents rated the community as excellent or very good, an improvement from only 17% in their previous residences.
Resident parents were also positive about their children’s achievement at school – 48% of children/young adults were rated as having improved their performance. One resident said, “(we’re) living in a nice warm house and the house is not over crowded. Everyone has their own space and the children are getting less coughs and colds, therefore are at school more, and learning better.”
CEO of the Housing Foundation, Brian Donnelly, says the research findings provide a better understanding of the distinct link between quality affordable housing and improved family and community wellbeing. He says benefits should not be measured solely in terms of “numbers of roofs” but also in terms of improved social wellbeing and the contributions these households bring to their community.
“Low income households with secure and stable housing tenures feel more connected to their communities. They take more pride and ownership within their neighbourhood and experience better well-being. In addition, their longer-term quality of life and enhanced financial wealth benefits are realised relatively quickly and are sustainable over the long haul.
“Our assistance to families is for as long as required and is designed to support their aspirations. Some can, over a very short time, become quite independent with significantly reduced levels of financial support required.”
Co-founder and trustee of the Tindall Foundation, Sir Stephen Tindall, says the Housing Foundation’s neighbourhood developments demonstrate how a strategic, long term investment approach can leverage better social outcomes. He says it is about enabling households to get ahead and invest in their future rather than having to rely on welfare support.
“This is the future and this is how we are going to break the poverty cycle. Affordable housing developments, created by community housing providers who are happy to work alongside developers and investors with shared values, are a tangible way of helping generations of New Zealand families to live healthy and happy lives and for our communities to be strong and prosperous.
“Learning financial literacy whilst developing a family legacy through home ownership can really transform a family’s outlook on life,” he says.
Current developments the Housing Foundation is engaged with include a 282-unit project at Weymouth in South Auckland, known as Waihamia Inlet. Another is currently underway in Hornby, Christchurch.
Brian Donnelly says the Waimahia Inlet development will feature improved details which reflect an increased understanding of residents’ needs, learned from this research. Each home will be architecturally designed to be warm and energy efficient, and will be built by experienced, registered builders to a high standard, focused on attention to detail.
“Waimahia Inlet is also unique in that 40% of the houses will be for sale on the open market. It presents an unparalleled opportunity for all first home buyers and families entering the housing market to purchase in a superb quality, new housing development at an affordable price.
“We want the Waimahia Inlet to feature a predominance of families in their very first, owned home. However, there will be many opportunities for other owner occupiers to settle down and enjoy this great location as well. We have also planned for a small number of rental houses to be built in stages for specialised community housing organisations such as Habitat for Humanity and Accessible Properties.”
Construction will be underway in May with 21 first homes available to move in to from August this year. The brand new, modern design homes are a mixture of two, three, four and five bedrooms.
First homes in the Hornby development should be available to move in to from August this year.
The Affordable Planned Housing research is significant as it provides evidence that affordable homeownership definitely and measurably affects a family’s wellbeing.
Both the Waimahia Inlet and Hornby affordable housing developments have drawn on this research and the documenting of the homeowner experiences, to ensure significantly more families can escape the ‘rental trap’ and move to experience the holistic benefits of affordable home ownership.
*Affordable Planned Housing: A Resident’s Perspective – December 2013 by City Scope Consultants in conjunction with Nexus Planning & Research