Life when renting for older Māori

The proportion of Māori aged over 55 years living in rental accommodation is likely to rise as home ownership becomes less attainable. To examine what the future of rental accommodation may hold for older Māori, Building Better Researchers Dr Fiona Cram and Morehu Munro interviewed 42 older Māori renters in the Hawke’s Bay region of Aotearoa New Zealand about their experiences.

Participants had moved to their current home to be closer to whānau or out of necessity, and their whānau had often helped them make the decision to move. While some found paying their rent manageable, they often struggled with other living costs. Some struggled with the cost of rent.

“Until the mid-1970s, the proportion of Māori households whose members owned their own home exceeded those who lived in rented accommodation, but this has now been reversed,” says Fiona.

Between 1986 and 2013, the proportion of Māori living in rental accommodation increased from 41% to 77% of Māori.

“In 2012, the New Zealand Productivity Commission observed that low incomes and low financial literacy were two stumbling blocks to Māori realising their housing aspirations. Since then, housing prices have increased substantially relative to income, pushing home ownership further beyond the reach of many Māori.

“Compared to Māori in other age groups, older Māori are more likely to live in their own homes, but in the coming years it is likely that the proportion of older Māori in rental accommodation will rise as younger generations of Māori are shut out of the housing market.”

Fiona says that although it can be hard to spot a peak before you have passed it, current home ownership statistics for those aged 55+ may currently be at its highest before the proportion of older Māori who are renters begins to climb.

“The potential advantages of renting such as mobility for work or whānau obligations are best realised if rental stock is of good quality, and if Māori have good access to such stock. However, over the past 35 years, Māori experiences of the lack of affordable housing, substandard rental accommodation and institutional racism in the rental market have been documented numerous times.

“This is not unique to this country – racism in housing has been documented in many parts of the world, with minority ethnic groups ending up segregated into high-poverty neighbourhoods and poor-quality housing – in New Zealand’s case, housing that might be cold, damp, and mouldy. This in turn impacts negatively on people’s health and well-being.

“Being able to find good quality, affordable, secure accommodation where they want to live and being on good terms with a landlord or agent will go some way to older Māori in rental accommodation having homes that feel secure and safe. Most of the older Māori renters in this study enjoyed a good relationship with their landlord or agent and wanted to stay living where they were. The findings from this study suggest that enabling them to do so will require the easing of the financial difficulties they have with paying their rent as well as meeting other living costs. Pathways out of renting could also respond to the ambitions of older Māori renters to own their own home for the first or second time and secure for their whānau the intergenerational benefits of home ownership.”

Read the research

Cram, F. & Munro, M. (2020). Life when renting for older Māori. AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples, 16, 1, 64-75. DOI: 10.1177/1177180120903504

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Date posted: 30 March 2021