Turning slum-houses into healthy homes, and educating school dropouts along the way.


Shannon Reeves is an emergency nurse trying to improving housing and education for low-income New Zealanders.

I recently learned she had a side gig as a professional house-mover and asbestos-abatement specialist (she’s not your average person) and has turned that into something much bigger — a social-welfare passion that seeks to educate and house New Zealand’s neediest at a time when 1 in 6 New Zealand kids are living in overcrowded homes. Overcrowding is one of the biggest factors in our health scourges of rheumatic heart disease, meningitis, and other diseases of poverty. 25% of Maori and 35% of Pacific Islanders in Aotearoa live in significantly overcrowded conditions.

She and her team are taking neglected, tear-down ghetto homes, moving them onto lots, refurbishing them using high-school leavers guided by building trades tutors, and placing the refurbished healthy and warm homes into very-low income neighbourhoods. She’s working on 3 homes currently, but wants a chance to work on dozens more. These are the kinds of projects that government should adopt: no corporate boys’ club deals, just someone who can take a small amount of seed money and deliver the goods. Society needs to trial more initiatives like this: fund two groups and comparing their outcomes, then roll the next round of funding to the winner. You’d create a scaleable product optimised to create results in local neighbourhoods.

Quick background facts: *50% of landfill waste is from house building and house demolition. *Decades of state house neglect and ‘deferred maintenance’ (another word for neglect) have created 7,000 homes in Auckland alone which are slated for demolition. This runs into the tens of thousands of houses nationwide. *7-16% of these can be refurbished to create a new home for someone else.

We live in a throwaway society, but it has caught up with us. We throw away houses, our clean water, our young people’s potential, and our taxpayer money. Let’s support people who are actually doing things to change this. Not managers, not corporates, not politicians, but the people with dirty hands. The people who actually do things.

Ka pai Shannon! And good luck.