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Eviction u-turn leads to rehousing

DUBBY HENRY
Last updated 05:00 05/03/2014
Roberta
DUBBY HENRY
REPRIEVE: Tetraplegic state housing tenant Roberta Mahara has been given three weeks to find another home before she is evicted.

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Housing New Zealand has done a complete u-turn on threats to evict a tetraplegic tenant.

Instead it will rehouse Roberta Mahara of Takanini and her 16-year-old daughter in a state-owned property in Manurewa.

Ms Mahara was to be evicted for being more than $11,000 behind on rent - a result of Work and Income cancelling her benefit on the suspicion that she was being dishonest about her living conditions by not declaring a live-in partner.

After losing her benefit she was charged full market rent of $480 a week on her five-bedroom state house. But with no income she rapidly fell behind on payments.

Social services advocates stepped in to help find Ms Mahara a home but discovered a serious shortage of disabled-access housing in Auckland.

They then re-applied to Housing New Zealand for Ms Mahara to be given a state house on the grounds that regardless of her previous actions she fitted the description of a person who needed accommodation help from the state.

Housing New Zealand regional manager Denise Fink says because of the case's "special circumstances" Ms Mahara will be moved to a rental that meets her needs.

"This is a smaller property which will return her five-bedroom modified property to the letting pool. This property will be re-let to a high priority applicant in urgent need of a large, modified home," Ms Fink says.

More than $9000 of Ms Mahara's rent debt has also been cancelled, with her Housing New Zealand account statement labelling the money an "overcharge".

Going from imminent eviction to being told she had a new home was "completely unexpected", Ms Mahara says.

"I'm so totally overwhelmed. I can't ask for anything better. It's easier for my carers to look after, it's close to the shops and markets. I don't need transport, I can just cross the road in my wheelchair."

But Ms Mahara says she understands she is still being jointly taken to court by Housing New Zealand and Work and Income in May on charges of fraud.

Ms Fink says the decision to rehouse Ms Mahara does not affect "other decisions made after an investigation of Roberta's circumstances and applications".

"Housing New Zealand tenants are at all times required to be truthful about their circumstances and income if they are applying for and in receipt of taxpayer-funded income-related rent subsidies."

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- Papakura Courier

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