Home Ownership Pathway Director Andrew Lavulavu wants the dream of more Pacific families owning their own homes to become reality
As a child who was part of a first significant wave of Tongan families migrating to New Zealand during the 1970s, Andrew Lavulavu is familiar with the pathway stories, struggles, and sacrifices that came with it.
But he believes the common narrative of the pioneering families paving the way for future generations is no longer true.
“Pacific families in the 1970s and 80s had a better chance of buying their first home with different government schemes and initiatives than families do in today’s market,” says Andrew, who grew up as a young child in Vava’u before the family settled in Porirua.
“The cost of housing back then was far more affordable and the kiwi dream was available to everyone, today average families who are renting are struggling just to start saving because the rents are so high.”
Andrew attended Bishop Viard College, in Porirua, graduating from Wellington’s Victoria University with a BA in Anthropology before heading on his OE in Europe. He entered the corporate world in London, shifted north to Manchester before returning home in 2008 to work in the corporate Technology sector for a large F100 company, it was following the GFC he started as a property investor as his family grew.
Andrew teamed up with a local mortgage broker and budget advisor to form the Whare Ora Trust in 2014. His goal was to use his background, experience and the skills to help others who were good at their jobs and just needed the direction or pathway towards Home Ownership”
After a couple of years with the Trust and its closure this year, Andrew relocated to Auckland and wanted to continue to utilise his background experience to create a service that can respond to the local housing market and demand. He saw many Pacific and Maori who were working in solid professions, but still struggling to save and secure enough finance to buy a home.
“A lot of people have high levels of consumer debt,” he says, referring to debt relating to the likes of credit cards, car finance, and hire purchases.
“More education is needed around how debt needs to be eliminated and avoided all together because it impacts what a potential lender will consider acceptable for a mortgage.”
One Pacific couple who feature on Home Ownership Pathways facebook page who brought a home in the South Auckland suburb of Manurewa, Don and Kristina, were put on a similar path over 3 years by Alan Leuluai, a south Auckland registered Financial Advisor. It is those people that Andrew is keen to help with partnered advisors like Alan, who have the right background in dealing with these families.
“We need to work with family’s right from the start of the journey and over a longer period of time to get them into a position to achieve pre-approval and eventually home ownership when the opportunity arises”
Setting up Home Ownership Pathway as a social enterprise enables Andrew to realise that vision.
“Our purpose is to create greater social equity, to get more low to middle income people into their own homes, majority who fall into that niche in our society are Pasifika and Maori” he says.
“We looked at various entity options and found that setting up a trust can be quite time consuming and restrictive. A social enterprise makes it more flexible and sustainable in the long term”.
“Housing is a key issue with the General Election getting nearer. If we can collaborate from both philanthropy and government funding sources along with our commercial revenue, then we’ll be working a model that is well on the way to achieving shared outcomes and is sustainable long term”.
Andrew adds that despite the odds stacked seemingly against Pacific families in achieving the dream of owning their home, some families can and do defy those odds.
“Every little bit helps, from not succumbing to expectations when it comes to events such as Fa’alavelave or Kavenga (family obligations) and sticking to a budget no matter what in order to achieve Home Ownership,” he says.
“There are Pacific families who are genuinely struggling financially, and have few options. However there are also many Pasifika who earn good money and could organise their finances in a way to achieve home ownership long term.”
“The sooner it’s addressed through our services as a solution, the less chance of our Pacific families being left out altogether.”