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December 2021

Utua atu: Q&A with Habitat for Humanity CEO Alan Thorp

How Utua atu is helping vulnerable consumers

Our Utua atu initiative is up and running! It’s already helping vulnerable New Zealanders become informed consumers. This programme lets people and businesses donate Consumer NZ memberships to consumers who wouldn’t otherwise be able to access our services.

That means growing their knowledge and confidence about their rights, helping them choose the best purchases for their budgets, and standing with them if companies treat them badly.

Alan Thorp, Habitat for Humanity chief executive
Alan Thorp, Habitat for Humanity chief executive

We chat with Habitat for Humanity chief executive Alan Thorp about how Utua atu can help his organisation.

Tell us a little bit about Habitat for Humanity  

Habitat for Humanity is an international housing charity. We build strength, stability, and self-reliance through shelter. We’re in 70 countries around the world and our business statement in New Zealand is a world where everyone has a decent place to live.  We have been able to home 550 whānau over the 30 years we have operated here.

Future homeowners Hannah and Terrance outside their new home in Te Kaareare.
Future homeowners Hannah and Terrance outside their new home in Te Kaareare.

Can you explain the type of New Zealanders you help?  

We generally help people on low-to-middle incomes who are in some form of housing deprivation. Usually, they’re families and haven’t owned a home before. They can also be renters that are living in a place where a landlord hasn’t complied with legal requirements, or it could be that they own their own home but don’t have the money to maintain it and keep it healthy.  

How is Utua atu making a positive impact on your work?  

We’re excited about teaming up with Utua Atu as we can now facilitate our families to make better purchasing decisions. That way, it helps them attain their goal of home ownership.   

It also adds another service we can provide to people we want to help.

How is Utua atu empowering your staff and advisers?  

We’ve only just started, but it’s great to have another piece in our toolkit that we can utilise for families. While we provide budgeting skills and financial literacy, if you’re spending your money on sub-par items then it’s no good. Utua atu works in tandem with other things we do at Habitat for Humanity and is another resource that can help families achieve their goals.  

Storm and her children are looking forward to owning their own home in Motueka
Storm and her children are looking forward to owning their own home in Motueka

What are the biggest issues you’re working to address as an organisation?  

Inequities in the housing ecosystem. In a lot of instances, one of the barriers to home ownership is having a deposit, but they’re a really difficult thing to get together. The families we partner with rent from us for five years and accumulate a deposit, then they can go to a commercial bank to purchase the property. What we’ve done is removed the barrier to access so families that would not normally been able to own a home now can. We’re giving them a hand up, not a handout.

So far, Utua atu has donated 493 memberships to seven community organisations across Aotearoa.

We’d like to thank our founding donors:

  • ASB
  • Simplicity
  • Chorus

To learn more about the initiative visit our Utua Atu page.

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