WHEN the war ended a Maori family with a modern home was an exception. That is no longer so though many houses are still required. Statistics do not tell us just how many homes have been built for Maoris over the last generation, but we know that the government has built 4,259 since 1929, and most of them after the war. This is likely to be by far the biggest proportion and the total number of Maori homes built since 1929 would be between 5,000 and 6,000. To many Maori women, at least one out of every four, this has meant a complete change in daily life and outlook.
Moving into a modern home means that altogether new standards can be set for family health, children's education, and the practising of homecraft in the true sense of the term. These are circumstances in which an organization such as the Maori Women's Welfare League, whose activities are centred on the home, can be expected to flourish.
The flow of new houses began in 1929 with the establishment of the Maori Land Development Schemes. Those who were settled on the land had houses built for them if needed.
This house was built at Tokomaru Bay by the Department of Maori Affairs for Mr Kareti and Mrs Heapera Collier. (photograph: john ashton).
To help those who had no farms two Acts were passed: the Maori Housing Act of 1935, and the Maori Housing Amendment Act, 1938. In the first the Government made housing finance available to the ordinary run of persons who had no large land holdings but could repay a mortgage out of earnings. The Amendment provided a special fund for those who badly needed housing but could not raise the security and loan repayments the earlier Act required.
At the outset the houses were simple and inexpensive. Built by the field supervisors of the Native Department and by the Public Works Department, they cost between £300 and £600 and provided just the bare essentials. In 1944, a separate building organization was established as part of the Department of Maori Affairs. Building supervisors and oversers were appointed and gangs of workmen recruited. An architect was put at the department's disposal with instructions to gradually make designs equal to the best for pakeha housing.
Maori welfare officers help the people to apply for housing and report on living conditions and personal circumstances. If the build-
An instance of homes built by the Government ten years ago for the Maori people. Pleasant and comfortable though this home is, it does not quite measure up to the design standards set today. Grounds and garden of this Northland homestead are in fine condition and typical of many Maori homes of this generation. (photo: national publicity studios).
Building supervisors help applicants to select a plan, give cost estimates, supervise all stages of construction. On completion a supervisor hands over the keys, gives advice on maintenance and laying out of grounds and section drainage. After the owner has been in the house for 31 days, the supervisor makes a maintenance check of the house and anything that needs attention (for instance a sticking door or window) is put right. Usually the welfare officer also makes a call about this time to help the new house owner to settle in, if any help is necessary. Advice on furnishing, homecraft and general management is often welcome.
What kind of homes are these? On these pages we have given some pictures of them. Applicants can have their houses built to plans of their own drawn up by qualified outside people, but most use the department's plan service. This consists of over ninety designs, published in a book which every applicant may see at any departmental office.
The main problem with which the designer has had to struggle is costs. Most Maori families are large and need considerable floor space. The loan maximum is £2,000. Average basic building cost under private contract lies somewhere between 48/- and 55/- a square foot in the North Island, except for the Wellington area where the cost is higher.
The plans of the Department of Maori Affairs should be viewed mainly as attempts to solve the problem of cost. There are two ways: first, to cut building cost a square foot and second, to utilize the available floor space as well as possible and eliminate wastage. Whatever way is used, the highest standard of plan and specifications has to be maintained.
The department's success in this respect can be gauged from the accompanying pictures and the prices given for final costs. Buying in bulk, storing supplies and always watching expenses are methods by which costs can be cut. Reasonable three-bedroom homes are being built by
the department in many parts of the North Island at costs ranging from £2,050 to £2,300.
Let us have a look at a typical three-bedroom house, plan number 3/1. Its area is 855 square feet, or just a little under the average size of the homes the department builds. Its general appearance is no different from a European house. It is big enough to house a family with four children comfortably. (See page 31, top.)
How is the floor space made up? Only 50 square feet is given to passages. The rest is all for living and sleeping. Bedroom space is just enough from a health viewpoint. The living room of 180 square feet is, however, well above the legal minimum and of comfortable size. The kitchen is not big enough to eat in, but it is the right size for the mother of a biggish family to work in.
Like many other departmental plans, this one is easy to add to, if the need arises, by extending the present sleeping porch. Incidentally, the plan service offers sleeping porches in most of its designs. They are particularly suited to Maori homes. One reason is, of course, they are handy for putting up guests. Secondly, air and light are of special importance because of the danger of T.B. The window space in a sleeping porch is larger than in an ordinary bedroom.
The Maori housing organization can, under its statutes, help any descendant of a Maori, whatever the proportion of Maori blood. In actual fact, it could never hope to build houses for the whole of this group. There are about 130,000 Maoris and the number rises by 3,000 every year. In addition many who are counted as Europeans by the census are Maoris under the Maori Housing Act. With an output of just over 500 houses last year, the building organization can fill only part of their need.
A recent policy statement from the Secretary of Maori Affairs shows how the department allocates its effort. It deals with eligible applicants in one of four ways:
A house may be constructed for them by the building organization.
They may be granted a loan for a house to be built by a private contractor.
They may be referred to another lending agency such as the State Advances Corporation.
If a deserving applicant is living in bad conditions but the paying of normal instalments is proved to be a hardship, he may be considered for a loan out of the special housing fund and
be asked to pay instalments suited to his circumstances.
The principle is that everyone should make the strongest efforts to help himself and the department's limited resources be reserved for those unable to do so. Those able to get loans from other lending agencies, should do so. Those who cannot offer enough security to satisfy other lending agencies, but who still have the resources and ability to engage private contractors, should engage them and get their finance from the Department of Maori Affairs. This leaves the department free to provide those homes which, were it not for its own building organization, would never be built.
With building costs as they are, a great effort has to be made by the people to save money for a home. Saving, either through the Post Office Savings Bank or by paying interest bearing deposits into the Department of Maori Affairs, should start early in life. Perhaps school savings accounts would be a useful beginning. Parents who build up their children's savings accounts are helping them with the house they will need later and at the same time are teaching them a useful habit. This might be something for Maori Women's Welfare Leagues to think about. There is no doubt that the social future of the Maori—and the standard of his housing—is largely bound up with his capacity to save.
BELOW: A home built recently by the Department of Maori Affairs for a client in Hamilton. Its number in the plan service is 3/1, area 855 square feet and the cost of the house at present would vary from £2,100 to £2,300. LEFT: Floor plan.