Homeless students forced to live in tent

LAUREN WAFER-KIDDLE
Last updated 05:00 16/03/2013
Canterbury University engineering students Brad Walsh, left,  and Jason Elliot
IAIN MCGREGOR
ROUGHING IT: Canterbury University engineering students Brad Walsh, left, and Jason Elliot camp on a friend’s lawn in Ilam.

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Two university students have been forced to live in a tent as the demand for housing in Christchurch increases.

Canterbury University engineering students Jason Elliot and Brad Walsh are camped on a friend's lawn because they say most landlords had ruled out them out as tenants before even meeting them.

"It's been tough, it's been at least three [flats] a week," Elliot said.

"People have this pre-conceived idea about students, that we are just raucous and all play, no work. They just don't seem to understand that we don't have time for that."

The boys were paying a total of $100 a week to their friend, which included internet, meals and access to bathroom facilities.

Although Walsh said he had been saving money, the cold and rainy nights were becoming too much.

"It rained the other night. Some came through and soaked my mattress," he said.

Elliot said: "We want to find somewhere before the snow kicks in."

Their tent contained two queen size beds, two chests of drawers, and a mirror. Walsh's car holds other possessions he could not squeeze in.

But both said they had found one benefit of their new lifestyle.

"It's easier to get up in the morning," Elliot said.

Law and arts student Sam Hider has been living in his parents' living room since November.

"We have easily applied for more than 20 flats, but there have been a few that haven't let us apply on the grounds we are students," he said.

"We thought we had a pretty good shot with solid references from past landlords and character references, but still no luck."

Canterbury University Students Association president Erin Jackson had heard of similar situations in recent months.

"I've heard about lots of sharing rooms, bunk beds and improvised bedrooms. But there are also stories about students with young families who have found the situation really difficult - which is also incredibly concerning."

UCSA supported students in difficulties with food banks and hardship funds, but she said they were finding it hard to figure out how many students had no accommodation.

"There is generally a shortage of concrete information. We have heard a lot of anecdotes about different situations, which gives us reason to think that there are a lot of varied situations around the typical university residential area," Jackson said.

"One of the most important things that we have identified is a need for data; so we will be progressing in this avenue shortly."

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Tania Ellis, of Whittle Knight and Boatwood's property management division, said there were not many properties available to students unless they applied quickly.

"There's always going to be some properties going quickly and only the best applications will be successful. There will always be missing out."

There were people missing out on properties long before earthquakes came along, she said.

"I'm surprised students are still looking at this time of year, they are usually organised by September or October."

"If people leave it to the last minute there's probably going to be less properties available."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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