76 empty state houses in South Auckland

NIGEL MOFFIET
Last updated 05:00 11/11/2014
Empty state house
Nigel Moffiet

LEFT EMPTY: From left: Sister Margaret Martin, Manurewa MP Louisa Wall and Sister Anne Hurley outside a Wiri state house which has been vacant for more than eight months.

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Disbelief at the rising number of empty state homes amid a growing housing crisis has community leaders demanding answers.

Manurewa Labour MP Louisa Wall said there's an unacceptable number of unoccupied Housing New Zealand properties in South Auckland at a time when some families are in dire need.

And that number has increased over the past six months, she said.

Housing NZ said 41 Manurewa state homes were vacant in March and that number had risen to 76 by the end of last month.

The figures were confirmed after Wall questioned Housing NZ Minister Bill English in Parliament.

And the number of families in desperate need of housing has also sky-rocketed. The latest Ministry of Social Development figures show 124 "priority A" applications and a total of 261 applications from families and individuals waiting for housing in Manurewa.

Priority A clients are defined as people "at risk" with a "severe and persistent housing need that must be addressed immediately".

Wall said the figures are concerning.

"My biggest question is why have we got 76 empty state houses when we've got 124 families on a waiting list that are at risk and in severe and persistent need?"

Sister Margaret Martin of Sisters of Mercy Wiri has been working in the area for 25 years and said the situation is critical.

"This is the worst that we have ever seen . . . so many families are living in overcrowded situations with other family members or living in cars and garages and there seems little hope for them."

She's also upset that a home in Inverell Ave in Wiri has been vacant for nearly a year.

"When we've got a housing crisis like we do in Auckland and to have a house like this which has been empty for eight months . . . it's dreadful."

Housing NZ project director Martin Chandler said the Wiri property has been empty since February partly because of renovations.

Work to extend the three-bedroom house to four bedrooms "took much longer than expected".

The house is ready for a family but waiting for a code of compliance certificate.

"When a Housing New Zealand property becomes vacant we always aim to have it returned to the letting pool as quickly as possible," Chandler said.

Fifty of the vacant properties in the area are "undergoing maintenance or at the end of a lease expiry", he said.

Asked by the Manukau Courier if any of those houses are earmarked for sale, Housing NZ did not respond.

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- Manukau Courier

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