Empty Homes is an initiative of the Wise Group
We’re a not-for-profit organisation that’s been successfully creating fresh possibilities and services to improve the wellbeing of people, organisations and communities for 30 years.
In 2016, the Wise Group identified that empty homes (sometimes referred to as ‘ghost houses’) may have the potential to be an additional supply of housing in New Zealand. As one of the largest providers of mental health and wellbeing services in New Zealand, we cannot ignore the impact our housing and accommodation crisis is having on people and communities. We regularly see housing reports and hear anecdotal evidence that indicates growing numbers of good tenants are struggling to find housing. Everyone knows someone who is, or who will be, affected by our country’s housing crisis. Our concerns about the housing shortage have grown in recent years and fuel our drive to find innovative potential solutions to the problem.
We undertook the Empty Homes project as we wanted to understand more about empty homes. With the right support and solutions, could they play a part in helping address our country's housing crisis?
In 2021, the Wise Group received funding from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development for an Empty Homes project and independent feasibility study.
The project and feasibility study aimed to:
- define what is an empty home in the New Zealand context,
- engage with property owners to understand more about empty homes and why they are empty,
- identify the barriers to returning an empty home into the housing supply, and
- explore potential support and solutions that would be helpful to return empty homes into the housing supply (and in doing so return five empty homes to the housing supply through the project).
Importantly, we worked together with empty home owners throughout this project in a consultative and collaborative way. We discovered there are many valid reasons that some homes are vacant. We discovered that returning homes to the housing supply is a complex and labour-intensive process. But we found that when we can identify those homes with potential to re-enter the housing supply, the benefits to property owners, tenants, neighbourhoods and local communities are far-reaching. This was, and remains, work worth doing!