Family is reduced to living in a garage

LOUISE RISK
Last updated 05:00 08/03/2012
Family living in garage
BEN CURRAN/Fairfax NZ

HOMELESS: Lori Hiroti sits on the bed she shares with her daughter Arreis-Jayde, 4, while her sons Hoani-Puru, 3, and Temorehu, 9, sit on the bed they share.

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Housing New Zealand admits it could have done more for a family reduced to living in a Hamilton garage for almost a month.

Lori Hiroti, 27, and her three children, Temorehu, 9, Arreis-Jayde, 4, and Hoani-Puru, 3, have been living in their aunt's state home garage for the past month after accommodation with family north of Huntly became unavailable.

Miss Hiroti has outstanding Housing NZ debt which she was paying off regularly, but she said with three children living in a garage, she felt Hamilton's Housing NZ staff should have taken her situation more seriously, and helped her rather than "being patronising".

HNZ yesterday apologised to the family and arranged an urgent needs assessment to be done today – a day after the Waikato Times got involved.

When Miss Hiroti had to move out of accommodation with family north of Huntly she initially approached several rental agencies, but was turned down due to her losing a Tenancy Tribunal hearing to pay $4500 for outstanding rent, rubbish removal and damage to a Porirua state house.

So going to Housing New Zealand "was a last resort".

When Miss Hiroti approached Housing NZ on February 24, she was told the first available assessment appointment was on March 22, despite telling the staff her children were sleeping on mattresses in a garage.

"I only got the beds a week ago, to get my kids up off the floor."

Instead of bringing her appointment forward, Housing NZ served a breach notice on Miss Hiroti's aunt, ordering Miss Hiroti to be out of the garage by March 19, three days before the assessment appointment.

She said she was a better tenant now because she had had "redirections" made directly from her benefit to ensure her bills were always paid on time.

Housing NZ tenancy services manager Peter McKenna said needs assessor appointment times varied depending on urgency, but were generally made "within a week of someone making contact".

Mr McKenna said Miss Hiroti's prior debt with them had no impact on eligibility for a state house, because applicants were assessed on their current situation, including their personal circumstances.

"Housing New Zealand acknowledges that we could have done better for Ms Hiroti by making an appointment for her to see a needs assessor sooner.

"We have made contact with her [yesterday] morning to apologise for the delay in making an appointment and to arrange for an urgent needs assessment to be done [this] morning."

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