What does Tamihere’s legal battle with Panuku say about mixed housing?

Left unchecked, many housing bodies continue to shut minorities out of the market, it is suggested

What does Tamihere’s legal battle with Panuku say about mixed housing?

John Tamihere, chief executive of Waipareia Trust, went to the Human Rights Tribunal this week to argue that Auckland Council has been running an unlawful housing policy that is racist, ageist, and classist.

In 2018, Eke Panuku had planned a partnership with Waipareira Housing, which is half-owned by the trust, on a project which would have seen 60 or more homes built on council land in Papatoetoe.

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However, Panuku wanted social housing to be capped at 30%, while Waipareia wanted at least 67%. When Panuku refused, a legal battle took place a year later. It has been three years since.

Finally on July 06, David Rankin, chief executive at Panuku, opted to drop its 30% cap and claimed that the tribunal should come to an end. In return, Rankin asked Tamihere if he was willing to drop the case and offered to shoulder the latter’s $400,000 legal cost.

But Tamihere is determined to see the case through. He told Stuff that this low limit is “ethically and morally wrong,” designed to “keep the barbarian out of town.”

“Why we have had to wait 10 years for Panuku to admit their wrong is bewildering,” Tamihere said in a statement. “Is it any wonder we have a housing crisis and the Government is now forced to spend millions housing people in motels and temporary accommodation when this type of behaviour is occurring?”

The presence of higher-paying residents impacts on providing better services in transport, schools, parks and shops, which is why Tamihere wanted to integrate mixed housing in the Papatoetoe suburb.

“Poor communities aren’t bad communities, you just need to provide better services to them,” Tamihere said.

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If there’s anything to take away from this feud, Vic Crockford told Stuff that fixed concepts, like Panuku’s former three-way split between social, affordable and market-priced housing, doesn’t work. He said that each development should instead be tailed to local needs.

“Public land should be used for public good wherever possible, and what public good looks like is different in each place,” Crockford said.

On the other hand, American academic Mark Joseph said that many cities have gone for, and seen great success with, the three-way split. However, this approach has also fuelled more stigma against these households, creating what he called an “incorporated exclusion” among poorer tenants.

Ultimately, Joseph said that successful mixed-use housing projects should be marked by “aspiration, connection and creativity, rather than fear, isolation and compliance.”