Wed, Jul 13, 2022 5:00 PM

New home for twelve families


Sara Hollyman

A domestic violence survivor who worries every day for her son’s future and a couple sharing a bedroom with their three children have been given an opportunity that will change their lives.

Twelve families, with a combined 22 children, were last week told which of the new Habitat for Humanity townhouses in the Main Rd Stoke development will become the first property they have ever owned.

Habitat for Humanity were able to purchase the land, behind Elim Christian Centre and build six two-bedroom and six three-bedroom homes with an interest free loan from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development.

Of the hundreds of people that attended initial information meetings for Habitat’s progressive homeownership system - one of the required conditions to making an application to be considered for one of the homes - 88 families followed through with a full application.

Of the 88 families, 33 had savings of more than $1000 and just nine had more than $20k saved, but none had enough to put forward a deposit to purchase a property on their own.

Habitat staff say the overwhelming reason given for applying was the poor condition of their existing residence, including cold, overcrowding and not fit-for-purpose.

From the list, 27 families were shortlisted and interviewed by the selection team, which Habitat Nelson manager Nick Clarke says was a huge and complex undertaking.

“To go to the house and hear the stories of 27 families … there’s the phrase ‘sometimes you become holders of terrible knowledge’, the selection team held all of that and then had to sort all of that,” he says.

“On the one hand it creates more of an impetus to be doing more in housing because we need to, but the other part of it is it’s a fabulous moment for us because this is why we do what we do.”

Solo mum Jayden walked to the Victory Community Centre from her home in Atawhai to attend the information meeting and the hike paid off, with her and her three-year-old son Noah, being selected as one of the 12 families to start the journey to home ownership.

She says the thing she’s most looking forward to is never being asked to move out again.

“I’m a domestic violence survivor. My life got destroyed in 2015 so I’ve spent the last years in major repair mode just trying to make things better.”

With no family, both parents having passed away, Jayden says she is completely on her own.

“I woke up one day and thought ‘I have to find a way for my son to have more than this because when I’m gone, he’s really going to be completely on his own’.”

Now she has been given that opportunity.

The 12 families along with Habitat Nelson volunteers and staff who have been assisting with the journey. Photo: Sara Hollyman.

Nick says it’s a five-year journey from when families move in around April 2023.

“At that time the properties are valued, and we say, ‘right that’s the purchase price’, but that’s what they’ll pay in five years-time.”

Until then they will pay an agreed rent, customised to each family’s budget. After five years, the rent they have paid, gets given back to them for the deposit on the settlement of the home.

“So when it comes to settling in five years’ time, they’ve saved five years’ worth of rent,” Nick says.

“It’s a hand-up, not a hand-out. People have to be prepared to journey with us on this, contribute towards their own home, and show their financial situation - there are certain criteria they have to work through.”

Bruno and Mariette Zoeppritz-Saia and their 18-month-old daughter Elara have been living in a caravan for the past year, trying to save to purchase a home.

“We’ve been trying different housing strategies over time - we’ve rented a room, lived in a unit, rented a sleepout, we were house-sitting for a year, but it’s always temporary,” Bruno says.

“We didn’t mind so much at the time, but once Elara was born, we wanted to find something more permanent,” adds Mariette.

After making the application they tried hard not create unrealistic expectations, again thinking they wouldn’t be successful. After the in-person interview they say it was impossible to get their hopes up.  

“I knew I could be really upset if this didn’t work out, we were afraid,” Mariette says.

But in early June they were told they too were successful and in April next year would move into their first home together.

Nick says the families are on the start of a journey that’s a “game-changer”.

“It’s a pleasure to be involved.”

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