Our first decade in business has certainly had its up and downs, and in many ways mirrors how the last decade has progressed. As we reach the end of our tenth year, and we take a moment to reflect on all that has passed, we are even more thankful for the journey to date and more notably, the important work left to do.
We celebrate the genesis of Home’s kaupapa, a response to homelessness caused by earthquakes, while at the same time celebrating the evolution of this kaupapa through the creation of new developments and communities. What started as an urgent response to restore a city from a natural disaster has developed over the last decade to what is perhaps an equally urgent response to an even greater and man-made disaster - our country’s housing crisis.
Earthquake repairs and rebuilds have given way to building entirely new communities and neighbourhoods across Aotearoa. The restoration of existing communities has developed into the creation of entirely new, resilient and sustainable communities.
Front and centre of it all, however, is the tangata (people) who are the heart of the why and how of this kaupapa (purpose). Without our people, our partners and our customers, both past and present, none of what has been achieved in the last decade would have been possible. And they are the reason we have so much hope and confidence in what is yet to be achieved and accomplished.
We began our journey in 2011, in Christchurch, after a magnitude 6.3 earthquake devastated the city.
In response to the incredible need of displaced and traumatised people, Israel and Jessica Cooper, along with Israel’s father Phil Cooper and aunty, Faith Harrison founded what was then known as Buildtech.
With a vast number of emergency jobs needed to be done and a particularly fierce winter approaching it was a race to repair roofs and remove chimneys. The team grew from 4 to 40. It was frantic and endless work that relied on Kiwi ingenuity and doing whatever it took to find solutions for the thousands of families who were living in broken homes.
The Christchurch Rebuild required huge volumes of house repairs. The team grew again, reaching over 100 people. After we had exhausted the labour pool in New Zealand, we began to recruit from countries that had the skills we needed. We were so grateful for the people who were prepared to move here, often moving their whole families, to be part of the rebuild.
Bringing people into the team from different countries and cultures was wonderful and challenging at the same time. On site, we had to create a dictionary for the various names and abbreviations each country had for the same thing.
Faith and Nicky Harrison worked around the clock helping with everything from setting people up in rented accommodation to finding furniture, getting driver’s licences and putting on cultural evenings.
As we look back at these earlier years, it takes our breath away at what was achieved. Not just by our still growing team, but all the people who were living through the aftermath of the earthquakes. We were two years on and the ground was still shaking.
There was so much loss, the greatest of which was loss of homes, but added to that school closures, workplaces shifted and communities disrupted. It was exhausting.
We reached our milestone of repairing 1,000 homes. For the following three years, we repaired the same number again, until we had eventually completed over 4,000 EQ repairs. We’re so proud of our team for achieving such phenomenal results in the middle of a storm that everyone was living through.
After three years of rapid expansion and hard graft, we had learnt that our top priority was the welfare of our people. If we wanted to build flourishing communities, we had to first be part of a flourishing community ourselves.
We’re grateful to key people who helped establish a “people first” culture. We were the first construction company in New Zealand to adopt the living wage and increased our sick leave.
Jessica led with kindness and care, gifting home baked cookies to encourage people and let them know they were valued. We won the IBM Kenexa Best Workplaces award, which was a great affirmation that we were going in the right direction.
In the previous four years, we had seen the importance of safe, secure, warm and healthy homes for people’s wellbeing. Conversely, not to have a home, to be displaced or removed from your community, having only temporary security or living in a broken house all had detrimental effects. These all contributed to people living without a sense of belonging.
In this year, we completed our first social housing development at 530 Barbadoes Street in Ōtautahi, Christchurch.
We began to form an organisational structure that fit our future. We downsized our in-house team and built key partnerships with companies that had the right skills. Many of these companies were founded by people who had once been on our team, finding their own passion.
Early on, we had focussed on the Christchurch rebuild, but we learnt the housing crisis was nationwide. Families were living in cars, others were on huge waiting lists for social housing and in the meantime sofa surfing between locations. The toll this insecure living has on children in particular is terrible.
We wanted to be part of the solution and began working with Housing New Zealand, which is now known as Kāinga Ora. David Brown, John Hillary, Pete Laurence and Laurie Peckham were all part of taking our team up to the North Island, along with Martin Potts and Michael Vermuelen.
Our experience in Canterbury meant the team could quickly adapt processes and systems to work effectively in new cities and towns. We continued to establish strong partnerships with like-minded companies.
We have always looked for opportunities to support organisations serving in our communities. Home has long standing relationships with Canterbury Rams and Eagles Academy, Project Esther and Parenting Place.
In 2017, we formalised our partnership with Habitat for Humanity New Zealand, supporting various programmes and projects. Bob Nelson, Andrew Barrett and Israel Cooper went on our first trip to Nepal, which was followed up by bigger trips to Nepal and Fiji in the following years.
Our team is always enthusiastic to help and volunteer. People like Paul Nanai and Andrew Barrett have been instrumental in creating a culture of service, by sharing with the team all the acts of service that were making a difference in the communities where we worked. We realised that whilst there had always been a willingness to help, celebrating service internally and externally encouraged everyone to do more.
We grew the business further, working in Hawkes Bay, Palmerston North, Hamilton and Rotorua. We found it difficult to get qualified and experienced trades people and realised that we had to be part of the solution. We focused on apprenticeships and offered to help our partners do the same.
Similarly, when we encountered difficulties in unlocking land, we saw an opportunity to play a role in making more land available for affordable housing. In 2018, we formed our development team, which was boosted with the arrival of David Wong.
We completed our first affordable housing development, on Sherbourne Street, Christchurch. All of the homes were sold to first-home buyers or ethical investors. This wasn’t an easy or popular decision, but we felt it was important to set this standard for ourselves.
It was time to change our name to represent who we are and what we care most about.
We are a construction company, and we build homes. We do this because we care about people, we care about the relationships within the home and the relationships surrounding the home: with the culture, the history, the community and the environment. We changed our name to Home.
We became more intentional in bringing more women onto the team across all departments and supporting them to influence change in our company, as well as the industry that has, for too long, underrepresented women. We have award winning women on our team!
Also winning awards were the White/High Street Development for Kāinga Ora, which won Property Council Award, NZIA Architecture Award and the Dulux Colour Award, and the Brookfield development, which won the NZIA Award.
A year that goes into the history books across the globe; the year when Covid-19 brought the world into lockdown. In New Zealand, the eight-week countrywide lockdown brought new problems to solve, but with a strong team culture, our people rose to the challenge and we got through together.
Innovative solutions were found, we took care of each other in the ways that we could, and we all started using new phrases, like 'Can everyone mute themselves please' and 'Sorry that's just my daughter having a tantrum in the other room'.
One thing we know is that homelessness touches everyone and in order to help we need to be able to put ourselves in another’s shoes, to understand their culture and respect their worldview. We joined the MATES in Construction initiative, begun to have all-team Te Reo Māori classes and most recently, had workplace wellbeing sessions with Mind Health experts.
Home has a vision to see the eradication of homelessness in the next 90 years. It may seem like "mission impossible", but we know that when people work together to find solutions, there is success.
The right to a decent home is a human right for everyone and we believe we can make it a reality for all those that live in Aotearoa. Not today or tomorrow, but one day.
As we step into the second decade of Home, we take with us a community of partners. Our own family has grown and we are excited by what can be achieved with our key partners, Kāinga Maha and Home Foundation. Our mission is to build flourishing communities and together we will make a difference.