Taha Whanau: Healthy Social Well-being Favona Social Housing   |   Auckland, New Zealand   |   1,906,310 SF

For generations, the Maori people of New Zealand have borne the scars of colonization. Like other indigenous peoples of the world, they continue to struggle to find taha whanau, healthy social well-being. Within the Favona development—a for-profit social housing model located on Auckland Harbor—cycles of welfare dependency will be broken, and the empowerment of community will replace the caustic forces of helplessness.

Aroha: Love
The 600,000 Maori people now living in New Zealand suffer from disproportionate economic and social obstacles. Greater health problems, lower life expectancies, educational under-achievement, and higher unemployment are just a few that leave many caught in cycles of multigenerational welfare dependency. Moved by the effects of disenfranchisement on the Maori people, the client—a developer and philanthropist—dreamed of a housing model that would help them move from welfare to self-sufficiency as they were surrounded by neighbors modeling taha whanau. He dreamed of a place aimed at reconciliation and empowerment, a reversal of trends nearly two-centuries overdue. The Maori words aroha (love), awhi (surrounding), and whare (house) became the foundation of his mission.
Favona Social Housing Diagram
Awhi: Surrounding

Two-thirds of Favona’s 1,600 units will be sold at market rate. The other third is to be subsidized for Maori residents who will also participate in a social program that includes financial literacy classes and establishment of a savings account. The quality of life that market-rate renters demand will elevate the surroundings of their neighbors. Ultimately, a for-profit structure will make the project sustainable and place the Maori at the center of prime development and urban living, instead of along the periphery.

“When people are well-loved it will solve the most challenging issues of their lives,” said Principal in Charge Rick Archer.

Market-rate residents who choose to live at Favona will likely be socially minded, willing to provide encouraging community and support. If the program works as intended, the once marginalized Maori people will be able to move into market-rate housing without leaving the development, providing stability even as they build independence.

Favona Social Housing Sketch
Favona Social Housing Sketch
Whare: House

Located along the Auckland Harbor, Favona will occupy choice real estate in an area strapped for housing options. Housing in Auckland is in high demand, hard to come by, and very expensive.

Because of the real estate’s value, the site plan had to meet certain density requirements. Auckland Harbor has height restrictions as well. The nature of the site and project would create open, inviting space rather than an industrial atmosphere that is often associated with social housing projects. The site plan proved to be the largest design hurdle Overland would face. The team managed to use a modular design to meet all the needs of the project, while creating a humane atmosphere lending itself to reconciliation through community. The team spent a long time investigating the language and customs of the Maori and incorporated the values of the culture into the buildings. Specific attention was paid to the social structures of the culture in its greatness. Traditional Maori society emphasized the rights and obligations of persons as members of village rather than as individuals. The design responded by creating public spaces that would foster interaction and strengthen community ties.

“Our hope is that through creating this place we can change the trajectory of an entire nation of indigenous people who have suffered because of how they were treated during colonization,” said Archer.

Their research and dedication paid off. When the design was presented to the Maori chief whose people would occupy Favona, he wept. He was amazed to see how people on the other side of the world understood his culture more profoundly than his own neighbors.

As the Maori people move toward self-sufficiency and empowerment, they will do so in an environment that affirms their past strength and their promising future.