Future homeowners Jesse and Sherradon Kennedy were looking forward to the warmth, space and convenience of a newly-dedicated Habitat for Humanity Central North Island home in Ngaruawahia.
The Kennedy whanau – Jesse (Ngapuhi), Sherradon (Ngati Maniapoto, Ngati Toa) and children Evelyn (5), Nathan (4), Hayzel (2) and Zoey (1) – welcomed family, friends and supporters to their Habitat home recently for a dedication ceremony. They are part of Habitat’s Assisted Home Ownership programme, which sees families help to build, finish and paint a simple, decent home alongside volunteers and trades, before renting the home for five years. With conditions, they will then work towards home ownership within 10 years, using the rent paid less Habitat’s costs as part of their deposit.
Sherradon said they’d been given 90 days’ notice by their previous landlord to move out of their “pretty squashy” uninsulated and cold house. It was too small for the family, especially during summer when one of the three ‘bedrooms’ (a loft) became too hot to use. Sherradon said this meant three children were sleeping in one room, with Jesse (27) and Sherradon (28) either sleeping in the lounge or in the room where the baby was, with their belongings “all over the place”. The children were frequently sick through winter, which the couple found difficult to juggle, and Jesse has also struggled with asthma and eczema.
While Sherradon said the younger children were oblivious to the change in the family’s life, the older children were excited – Nathan, to have his own room in the new four-bedroom home, and Evelyn (“a very sociable girl”) happy to see her school friends more often. They had been renting in Hamilton, but schooling for the children was in Ngaruawahia, where they wanted to settle.
“Now that we’re here we can spend some time getting to know people – I’m really excited to be part of our school community,” Sherradon said, and Jesse, an outdoors enthusiast, was firstly looking forward to having the Hakarimata Summit track just up the road.
“I actually am,” he said. “But I’m excited mostly just to be settled in a home that’s warm, dry and we don’t have to worry about getting kicked out… with space to actually fit the kids in without having to stress out about them getting sick every single winter.”
Jesse said the family had been moved on by previous landlords – once, when the landlord discovered Sherradon was pregnant, and the most recent time because the home was being sold.
On the day of their home dedication, Sherradon said she was amazed at the warmth of their home, without any heating on – and this would be the first time they’d lived with double-glazed windows.
Habitat for Humanity Central North Island built the home using its own tradespeople and supporters including Alpha Electrical and CF Reese. Habitat sponsor Fujitsu supplied a heat pump, and all paint was also provided by sponsor Dulux. Habitat and the Kennedy’s were supported by volunteers and friends to help get the home finished. Habitat Central North Island board member Heather Claycomb was pleased to help cut the ribbon at the dedication celebration.
The home has technology installed by Ata Touch, which means temperature, lighting and hot water can be monitored and controlled by smartphone. Sherradon said it was exciting to be able to lock down the lights in their rooms at night.
Besides the immediate practical benefits, the family was pleased to be able to spend time in the community getting to know people better, and socialising with the neighbours. And as Habitat sets rents at no more than 30 per cent of household income, Sherradon said “it’s really good money-wise, because Jesse is studying, and we’re not going to have to be super stressed out.”
She has plans to study and become a physiotherapist when the children are a bit older, and Jesse is currently studying sport and exercise science, with plans to go on to do his master’s.
Habitat for Humanity Central North Island General Manager Nic Greene said the home dedication for the Kennedy family was an important and special milestone.
“This is an exciting time for the Kennedys, and while it might seem like the end of a journey for them to move in, their home ownership story and the ‘hard work’ is just beginning.”
Greene said the programme’s selection process was “stringent”, and focused on a family’s “willingness to partner, potential to succeed and existing housing need.”
“We are very much looking forward to celebrating more successes with the Kennedys as we walk alongside them through this journey, and I have no doubt they will thrive as future homeowners.”