by PETER GRACE
A mother of three made a short but moving speech when she and her husband received the keys to their brand new house in Auckland on January 29 .

Architect Elke Vermeulen (right) hands the keys of their new house to the Lao family, from left, Greshka (12), Dhon (10), Armando, Hanz (5), and Geroina.
Architect Elke Vermeulen (right) hands the keys of their new house to the
Lao family, from left, Greshka (12), Dhon (10), Armando, Hanz (5), and Geroina.

The Lao family moved into the 99th home built in 20 years by the Christian organisation, Habitat for Humanity.
The Laos are a Catholic family who have been in New Zealand for about eight years. They have moved from a cold, uncomfortable house in east Auckland. Their nearest Catholic parish now is St Paul’s in Massey.
After graduate architect Elke Vermeulen handed Geroina and Armando Lao the keys to their new home, Mrs Lao, speaking with tears in her eyes and a tremor in her voice, thanked a long list of people “for making the dream come true”.
“First of all, we’d like to thank Dad up above for giving this precious gift to our family here in New Zealand.”
She thanked Habitat for Humanity people by name, including builders Mike, Will and Carla, and volunteers.
“From the bottom of our hearts, a big thanks.”
Habitat had made such a big difference to their lives, from an old, cold house in Panmure where asthma was a recurring problem, to a brand new warm, comfortable house, Mrs Lao said.
“It’s really worth the wait. Thank you so much.”
Habitat for Humanity chairman Ken Stevenson, and John Delugar, explained to NZ Catholic how families are selected for new homes.
Habitat for Humanity holds public meetings, then calls for applications. A selection committee reviews the applications and families are judged on their ability to partner with Habitat, their existing housing situation and the basis of their need.
Mr Delugar explained that families make payment by renting for five years, then graduate to purchase under a
long term sale and purchase agreement.
“In that five year period they need to make their payments and demonstrate reasonable behaviour, and then the rental payments they have made are credited against the purchase price.”
Habitat for Humanity has to charge an interest rate, but it never exceeds 2 per cent.
Mr and Mrs Lao explained that their commitment included “sweat equity”, and to date they had put in 500 hours work on the house.
The children, they said, were happy and proud to have their own rooms.
Mr Delugar said he is a lawyer, so has done the necessary legal work. However, the sheer cost of Auckland land has slowed the building programme.
“The meanest site in Auckland is at least $200,000.”
Habitat also has an ongoing care approach.
“A lot of these families need a lot of nurture, so they go through a financial literacy programme and we work with them on a partnership basis,” said Mr Delugar.

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