Making it easier for whanau to build on multiply-owned Māori is probably the best achievement of the current government to date says Gisborne District Councillor Manu Caddie.
Changes in eligibility criteria and an increase in the amount Kiwibank will loan under the Kainga Whenua scheme were announced yesterday by Māori Party co-leader and Associate Minister of Housing Tariana Turia.
“If anything can make a difference to unlocking the potential of Māori land on the East Coast then this will” said Mr Caddie.
Mr Caddie said the changes that will allow non-resident shareholders to be guarantors for a loan, lifting the restriction from only first home buyers and raising the income threshold will make it easier for people earning more money, who can afford to service a mortgage, to look at returning to their traditional lands.
Mr Caddie said rates arrears on Māori land in the northern part of Gisborne District were spiraling out of control and this kind of policy would make it much easier for families to return to the land and make it even more productive than it had been 100 years ago.
“With the opportunities technology offers to work anywhere, the idea of living on tribal lands and trading globally is going to be very appealing to more families.”
Mr Caddie has been critical of the Kainga Whenua scheme in the past because the restrictive criteria had severely limited its uptake. “These are the changes we have been calling for and it is great to see both the Maori Party and National Party have been listening.”
Mr Caddie said a presentation on the new criteria would be on the agenda of the Tairawhiti Housing Advisory Group meeting at Council on 24th October.
The fund will now be open to Maori Land Trusts, whanau or hapu groups who wish to build on Maori land and to all individual borrowers assessed as able to service a mortgage, not just first home buyers.
The income cap for borrowers has been raised from $85,000 to $120,000 for one borrower and up to $160,000 for two or more borrowers.
Loans can also now be used for home improvements, repairs and maintenance.