Doug Karanga Jr and Doug Karanga Sr are about to trade living in a car and in emergency accommodation for their own home. Photo / Peter de Graaf
For the past two years, the only homes Doug Karanga has known have been his car and other people’s couches.
Now his luck has changed at last, with the young Northlander and his parents due to move into a newly built Kāinga Ora home this Thursday.
The Karangas’ home is one of five launched on Monday by Kāinga Ora, formerly Housing New Zealand, on what was previously one section on Kaikohe’s Rankin St.
Despite the huge need for housing across Northland, especially in Kaikohe, they are the first new public homes built in the Mid-North town in decades.
Karanga said he’d been “pretty much couch-surfing” since 2021 and sleeping in his car, “bouncing from car park to car park” when no one could take him in.
“I made the best of it. There’s people in worse positions who don’t even have a car,” he said.
Besides, as the youngest child of the family, his real concern was for his parents.
Both had health issues and had been living in emergency accommodation in a Kawakawa motel since January.
“Emergency housing is no place for my parents,” he said.
Being able to have their grandchildren visit again would mean a lot to them.
“I can see my parents being very happy here. It’s beautiful.”
Karanga said he was due to start a new job next month at a pine nursery that’s just a two-minute drive away.
One of the Karangas’ neighbours will be Kayla Matatahi, who is due to give birth to her first child in May.
She is due to move into a two-bedroom duplex on Wednesday.
Originally from Kerikeri, Matatahi said her living situation had been “sticky” ever since she moved back to Northland from Auckland.
She had boarded at a number of different places but had never rented a place of her own.
“It’s a beautiful opportunity, especially with [my] baby on the way. I’m so blessed. Having a home will make me feel way more stable. Everyone here feels like whānau. I won’t feel out of place.”
Matatahi, who has had a number of different jobs, will look for work after the baby is born.
The new complex consists of two single-storey, two-bedroom homes, two two-bedroom duplex townhouses and one five-bedroom home designed for multi-generational living.
All the townhouses have accessibility features such as wide hallways and ground-floor bathrooms.
The homes were built by Kerikeri firm Yakas Construction, which was founded by Marty Yakas (Ngāti Rehia) and currently has 14 staff.
As a Māori, Yakas said he felt proud to be building houses that would be lived in by Māori whānau.
“It’s a big milestone for us as a Māori company. I wanted to prove to a lot of people what Māori businesses can do, so I’m pretty pumped.”
Yakas said it wasn’t the biggest contract he’d had — he’d carved out a reputation for marae projects and had built high-end homes in Kerikeri — but it was his first Kāinga Ora contract.
He hoped it wouldn’t be the last.
Kāinga Ora regional director Jeff Murray said the Rankin St homes were the first public houses built in Kaikohe in decades.
It was part of a push to make better use of land Kāinga Ora already owned, along with retrofitting existing homes so they could be lived in for another 30 to 50 years.
The agency was also working with private companies on key projects.
“So, we’re really trying to push on all fronts,” he said.
Kāinga Ora was building as many homes as its budget would allow, but he conceded demand was “really high and staying high”.
The five families chosen for the Rankin St development had been on the housing waiting list for some time.
The development would allow them to live close to jobs and services on a property that used to have just one house, Murray said.
The project had a knock-on effect for the local economy because Kāinga Ora had partnered with a local, Māori-owned construction company which had employed three local apprentices as part of its contract.
Yakas and his team had built a relationship with the community, clearing one neighbour’s section with a digger, cutting up a fallen tree for another and giving away materials from the previous house on the property.
In return, the neighbours kept an eye on the site while construction was under way.
The Rankin St development is one of a multitude of new public housing projects around Northland.
Kāinga Ora is about to start another project on De Merle St in Kaikohe, while community housing provider Habitat for Humanity opened a new complex on Kerikeri Rd earlier this month and is about to start a much bigger one in Whangārei.
Kāinga Ora has plans for a three-storey complex on Kerikeri’s Clarke Rd, and in February, the Government pledged a new subdivision off Hall Rd, also in Kerikeri, would include a minimum of 30 per cent affordable or social housing.