Kaupapakāinga: The potential for Māori cohousing

Earthsong Eco-Neighbourhood, Ranui, Auckland. Photo: James Berghan.

Māori conceptions of ‘home’ are relational and multi-dimensional. They can extend beyond the physical house, drawing on connections and relationships within and between whānau, whenua, and whakapapa.

These conceptions can be at odds with mainstream societal regimes, which tend to focus on individualisation, private property rights, and the nuclear family unit. Building Better researcher Dr James Berghan asks if there may be better options worth investigating.

“Much of our housing stock is reflective of those values which don’t necessarily align with a relational Māori world view. A growing body of literature is emerging on housing approaches that might better suit Māori needs and aspirations,” says James.

A number of scholars have explored various aspects of Māori and housing, including trends and contemporary barriers to Māori achieving their housing aspirations, papakāinga (Māori housing) design principles, and established toolkits to guide the development of papakāinga. This mahi is advancing the state of knowledge around papakāinga and the potential for kaupapa Māori housing and neighbourhood design approaches.

“Approaches to kaupapa Māori development such as papakāinga housing bear similarities with collective housing models such as cohousing. Cohousing, a Danish model of collective housing, combines private dwellings with shared spaces and facilities to foster socialisation.

“Papakāinga and cohousing communities often share aspirations for social, environmental, and economic sustainability; so arguably, dialogue between the two models has merit. There may be the opportunity for Māori to utilise elements of the cohousing model in a contemporary context to progress alternative, but culturally-appropriate, pathways into housing.

“While papakāinga typically denotes an ancestral connection to the whenua, Māori are predominantly an urban population, so, for many Māori, their primary residence may not be on or near their ancestral land. Collective models could offer lessons for developing and managing communal infrastructure (physical and social) in urban settings, but which better reflect a pā style of living.

“This may not be the preferred option for all Māori, but it may hold value for some.”

James has recently authored a report to explore the potential for Māori to co-opt aspects of the cohousing model. He writes that a hybrid approach, combining elements of cohousing and papakāinga could offer an alternative entry point into the housing market for Māori.

The report discusses papakāinga as a uniquely Māori way of living, then introduces the cohousing model, which has social aspirations which may align with some of the values underpinning papakāinga.

James examines three case study sites (1) Kāinga Tuatahi, an urban papakāinga in central Auckland; (2) Earthsong, a cohousing community in West Auckland; and (3) the Hamilton Kaumātua Village. He considers the potential strengths and weaknesses of a hybrid Māori cohousing approach. “Ultimately, Kaupapakāinga, or a Māori cohousing approach, could have potential for Māori housing aspirations, particularly for urban Māori and those living away from their ancestral lands.”

Read the research

Berghan, J. (2021). Kaupapakāinga: The potential for Māori cohousing. Report for Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities: Affordable Housing for Generations. September 2021, 37pgs. Wellington: BBHTC.

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Date posted: 7 June 2022