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  • Tina Pope

Putting down roots

Linda McLaughlan writes the first in an occasional series from the Paekākāriki Housing Trust on different ways to buy your own home which rely on people working more together.

This is the true story of a woman who fell in love with a village and whose landlord helped her find a way to be able to stay.

Tess (not her real name) fell in love with Paekākāriki the same way many do, with visits to our beach at weekends. She loved the landscape of the village, the gently rolling hills and lush vegetation. Dogs used to roam more freely. It felt like being inside a Hairy Maclary storybook. Tess was taken with the dairy, and the range of food on offer. Her partner had heard great things about the community. They agreed they wanted a new life outside of the city with their baby. Could this be the place for them?

At the time, Betty Perkins (of Perkins Farm and our community board) was the go-to font of all knowledge. Tess visited her in her second-hand shop Magpie on Beach Road, asking for advice about how to find a place to rent. Betty’s answer was clear - ‘You have to be here to hear of things, love. But I’ll put your name down in my book, and if I hear of anything I’ll let you know.’ Before her name rose up Betty’s waiting list, she answered an ad in The Dom for a rental and they moved out to Aperahama Street.

They moved at the beginning of a very cold week, the walls were taupe and grey, heating was minimal and they froze. But, then the weather cheered up and day by day, the love affair with Paekākāriki deepened.

Another child was born, Tess lost her Mum and in 2005 Tess and her partner separated. It was time to move. Again, places were hard to find. She was keen on one place and, following a friend’s advice she went under the cover of darkness (the house was empty!) and planted a single potato in the garden, whispering her wishes for roots as she patted down the earth. However, someone else got in first and was all set to move in. But the power of those roots must have done the magic, as the people backed out, and the house was offered to Tess.

Tess and the children made it their own, and developed a great relationship with their landlord, who we shall call George. He planned to sell at some point, and told Tess she would have first right of refusal when he did. Tess was looking at putting the small deposit she had from her Mum somewhere, and after a while, started to look around. She found it all quite overwhelming. Her children were small. A mortgage felt scary. And at the same time, prices were rising fast. By $100 000 a year. She had to do something, soon.

In 2007 George offered her the house she was renting. It was time to bite the bullet. She found an excellent mortgage broker, who listened to her plans for a business (at the time she was on the DPB). Maybe it would be possible? However the bank would only lend to a certain level. She was $75 000 short. She returned to George, giving him a reluctant no.

George came back with an offer. He would lend her the $75,000 shortfall, with an interest rate that sat under the bank rate. She would have ten years to pay it back, and could start whenever she was able to. George would receive interest on his investment that was at a higher rate than a term deposit, but less punitive than the bank rate on Tess. A win-win!

Tess was overwhelmed by this generosity. With both parents having passed away, having this trust and support from her landlord was a life changer. An agreement was drawn up with a solicitor (the cost born by Tess), the house purchased, and twelve years later Tess still lives in the house, an active and well known part of the village. George was paid back over the ten years, as arranged, and the relationship between George and Tess has continued, with George often helping her with things around the house, lending her tools, advice and time.

This kind of arrangement is not uncommon; many people have money gifted or loaned by parents. However, many more, like Tess either do not have parents alive, or their parents don’t have money that could help. By George choosing to invest in her, Tess’s life was changed forever and he continued to have a relationship with the life of the home he had once owned. He recognised that it is people that matter. The arrangement not only provided Tess an opportunity to have a secure roof over her and her children’s heads, but by putting down roots in the village, she has contributed to its wellbeing in many, many ways.

And her potato patch is thriving.

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