Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reiterated long-term housing for every family is the end goal as she opened the new Monte Cecilia Housing Trust facility, which boasts 31 2-bedroom units that can accommodate potentially
120 families a year.
“I’m pleased that you’ve acknowledged transitional housing is not our aspiration. It is our here and now,” Ms Ardern said, as she noted how appropriate it was that the opening happened on World Homelessness
Day (October 10).
“You’ve future-proofed these units for public housing in the future. It’s an acknowledgement that, one day, we want to move on from transitional spaces to providing the stability of long-term public housing [and] long-term affordable housing,” she said.
The Prime Minister said the Government is dealing with the issue of homelessness and housing by infusing $54 million into keeping people in their homes.
“One of the issues we realised has to do with people at risk of losing their tenancy for a range of reasons and, actually, if we work more closely alongside those families at risk of losing their tenancy, we stop homelessness in the first place,” she said.
Monte Cecilia’s new $12 million facility is located in Windrush Close, Mangere. Around $8.6 million of the $12 million was funded by a loan from the Government, through the Housing and Urban Design ministry, which is payable over ten years. The Government leased the facility back from Monte Cecilia to help the transitional housing provider pay the loan.
Monte Cecilia CEO Bernie Smith offered the Prime Minister a deal to partner with community housing providers. He said every dollar the Government puts into community housing will be a dollar saved in terms of costs to physical and mental health, and education, as well as the prison system.
“The end game that we all want is they [homeless families] become self-sustainable, where they can stand tall in their culture, they can stand tall in their faith, they can stand tall as a family,” he said.
Mr Smith stressed that building new homes is not enough. “Yes, we need housing, but new homes that acknowledge culture, acknowledge family connectivity, that allow multi-generational families to be living in a single home, so families can care while others work, families with joint-incomes can save to build their own home, where grandparents can teach grandchildren their culture and where younger family members can
care for their elderly,” he said.
He also said that Government needs to move away from the Canadian/English model policy of children having to have their own bedrooms, because this is not the culture of the families that need housing. Auckland Bishop Patrick Dunn was asked to bless the facility. In his blessing, he asked God “to watch over your people, especially those who have no homes to return to at the end of a long and weary day. Protect them from all harm and keep them from despair”.
Monte Cecilia trust board chairman Ken Brophy thanked those who persevered to make the dream a reality. He thanked most especially Jim and Mae Weir, who have not only donated their time, but also gave generously in terms of finance.
He also thanked Sr Mary Foy, RSM, who started Monte Cecilia Housing Trust 37 years ago.
The trust said donors that made the project possible included the Weir family: $870,000; an anonymous donor: $500,000; Auckland Catholic Caring Foundation: $200,000; SkyCity: $125,000; Ted Manson Trust: $60,000; anonymous family trust: $50,000; and David Levene Foundation: $15,000.