(Homeowners Sharne Repia and David Hungahunga with Baylee-Maree and Konnah)

A Hastings whanau now enjoys the freedom of secure tenure for life, after graduating from Habitat’s Progressive Home Ownership programme to take full ownership of their home – originally constructed inside the walls of Hawke’s Bay Prison.

David Hungahunga (50) and Sharne Repia (46) embarked on their journey with Habitat in 2011 with their children Baylee-Maree (12) and Konnah (10).

At the time of application, the whanau was renting in Napier. For David and Sharne, owning a house was a dream that seemed impossible as they were unable to save money for a deposit.

Sharne said she dropped into one of Habitat’s public information sessions in Napier, interested to hear more, and with a longing for a house they could call their own.

After going through an extensive application and interview process, they were selected as the Habitat partner family and future homeowners for the prison-built house, Sharne said this brought with it a sense of “security and relief”.

“We don’t have to keep moving. This is something that is ours,”

The Hungahunga-Repia’s house was unique, as it was built by a team of six prisoners as part of a work programme, craned over the walls, and relocated to Hastings. After moving the house to its permanent location, the family built another segment which included a bedroom, toilet, and laundry, and then joined the two halves.

As a part of Habitat’s Progressive Home Ownership programme, families invest 500 hours of their time to build their own home or those of others as ‘sweat equity’, before entering a five-year rental phase. They make affordable rent payments based on their family income, which goes towards an eventual deposit.

David and Sharne also volunteered their time building another Habitat house in Hastings and helping out at the ReStore (Hasting), the local fundraising arm of Habitat for Humanity Central.

The Hungahunga-Repia whanau progressed to the purchasing phase in February 2020 and were able to seek independent finance to buy their home outright from Habitat, with Sharne saying: “We’ll be here…pretty much forever.”