Habitat for Humanity: decent and affordable housing is a “fundamental human right”

Alan Thorp, Group Chief Executive Officer, Habitat for Humanity New Zealand, reflects on a challenging year.

The past year held many challenges, and yet it provided Habitat in New Zealand with some of our most significant opportunities since our founding over 25 years ago. The impact of Covid-19 highlighted the critical role that a home plays as a place of refuge, safety, and as a foundation for support. Now, more than ever, decent and affordable housing should be regarded as a fundamental human right.

Habitat for Humanity’s vision is for a world in which everyone has a decent place to live. We believe in giving families a hand up, not a handout. We work in partnership with families in need of decent and affordable housing to effect positive change that will endure for generations.

In 2020, 17 Kiwi families completed the purchase of their homes through our Progressive Home Ownership programme, and 107 families started their home ownership journey. 2020 marked the culmination of several years of advocacy, and we are thrilled to share that Habitat for Humanity New Zealand has secured $8.25 million of the Government’s $400 million Progressive Home Ownership fund. This fund will assist 33 families into home ownership in the Auckland, Waikato, and Nelson regions, transforming lives through the social and economic empowerment that comes with owning a home.

Another fantastic achievement of the past year was the completion of over 1,300 home repairs across the country. With the support of wonderful volunteers, our home repair programme provides affordable home maintenance to low-income families, ensuring their homes are warm, dry, and safe. Our Habitat Curtain Bank provided over 5,000 curtains to families across Auckland, improving the warmth and habitability of homes in the winter months. These programmes have a monumental impact on a family’s long-term health and wellbeing.

In the Pacific, we continue to work alongside our in-country partners to empower communities, who in this past year faced the dual challenge of cyclone season and Covid-19. We responded to several natural disasters in this time, including devastating tropical Cyclone Harold and Cyclone Yasa which struck just before Christmas. This response involves supporting communities to repair structures damaged by the cyclones, including homes, toilets and showers. Our primary focus is not to build and renovate, but to equip communities with the knowledge and skills needed to rebuild safe, disaster resilient shelters. This includes teaching building, carpenter and plumbing skills to members of the community and working with them to carry out repairs.

In addition to our disaster recovery work, we have engaged hundreds of people across communities in the Pacific in the past year, providing building training and community-led shelter-strengthening activities, ensuring that our impact is long-term and sustainable. This work includes financial literacy and vocational training, creating new income earning opportunities for communities. Going forward, we are working with communities in Fiji and Samoa, adding Covid-19 preparedness training to our existing safe shelter programming. We have completed this training with 20 communities in the Pacific so far.

We will continue to advocate for change in housing policies and to eliminate the barriers to accessing adequate, affordable shelter. We will not stop working to reduce housing poverty, both here in New Zealand and around the world. Habitat for Humanity exists to help families build strength, stability and self-reliance through shelter. It is through shelter that we empower.

Together, we can build a world where everyone has a decent place to live.

If you would like to find out more about the work Habitat for Humanity does, visit their website or call (09) 579 4111.

About Alan Thorp

Group Chief Executive Officer, Habitat for Humanity New Zealand

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