Porirua's critical housing shortage

23:21, Aug 04 2014
Scott Byrne
THIRD WORLD: Scott Byrnes, right, sleeps in bus shelters and under bridges as he waits for a home, while hundreds of state units stand empty for earthquake work. Labour MP for Mana Kris Faafoi has been advocating on his behalf.

Scott Byrnes has been staying with a friend some nights each week, and spending the rest in bus shelters and under bridges.

About six weeks ago he went to Housing New Zealand and was referred on to Work and Income, where he applied for housing. He isn't hopeful.

"It just seems like, if you don't have children, they don't want to know."

Since then he has only received one phone call, to verify that his circumstances had not changed.

"I don't know which is worse, having hope and not getting anywhere or being told there's nothing they can do."

The former Londoner has been in New Zealand for a decade after moving here with his partner. When the two split, he signed over his interest in the house they had bought and most of his possessions, to ensure their two children had a roof over their heads.


He had been working as a a security guard but lost his job when one of his employer's contracts was not renewed.

Until six months ago he lived in Kenepuru Villas, but was evicted when they were shut down.


Josie Huntley lives in a Housing New Zealand flat, surrounded by empty, boarded-up units.

She said teenagers frequent the empty houses to smoke marijuana and the floorboards have been torn up in many of them to give thieves access to the copper piping.

Her home was burgled while her daughter-in- law was in hospital giving birth.

"There's a great big hole in my door. I'm still waiting for them to come and fix my window."

She said one empty unit has been occupied by squatters.

"I rang Housing New Zealand, and they sent a lady around."

When the woman left, one of the squatters threatened to "smack me over" because "Housing New Zealand said you narked on us", she said.

One third of Mana MP Kris Faafoi's electorate work is dealing with unmet social housing needs - one each day, and increasing.

Responsibility for meeting social housing needs was taken away from Housing New Zealand in April, turning the agency into a landlord.

The urgent housing need list was given to the Ministry of Social Development, but the responsibility shift has already caused problems.

The ministry assessed one woman for income-related rent and reduced her rent from $300 per week to $90, but the message never reached Housing New Zealand. The woman steadily accrued arrears at $300 per week, and only the intervention of Faafoi's electorate office staved off eviction.

Housing New Zealand told Faafoi the woman's arrears were not its problem and their only responsibility was to manage the tenancy.

"What if she hadn't come in?" Faafoi asked. "And who else out there is being booted out?"

Another man has been "couch- surfing" with friends some nights and sleeping rough the rest.

"No one in New Zealand should be sleeping on the street," Faafoi said.

Since the Christchurch quakes, Housing New Zealand's stock has been assessed for earthquake resistance, and 470 tenants relocated nationally. So far 187 homes in the Wellington region have been strengthened, refurbished and re-tenanted.

Kapi Mana News understands that 49 Housing New Zealand buildings in Porirua, representing 211 homes, were cleared of tenants for earthquake strengthening, and about 30 have been completed.

The ministry website showed that, as of June 30, there were 32 families or individuals in Porirua on the priority A urgent waiting list, meaning they were at risk and had severe and persistent housing needs that must be addressed immediately.

There were 26 assessed as priority B, in serious need.

Ministry spokesman Mike Freeman said the assessments did not guarantee anyone would get a house in any particular time, but set their priority in the queue.

A person notifying the ministry he or she was in urgent need of housing was immediately assessed and referred to a supplier of emergency housing such as the Salvation Army and a payment made, if necessary.

Kapi-Mana News