Couple desperate for permanent home

17:00, Apr 13 2014
Nikolai and Irina Zvyagin
HOMELESS: Nikolai Zvyagin and his wife Irina have left their garage and have been saved from sleeping in the park by a friend.

With all options exhausted, the Zvyagins packed their car full of bedding in the rain.

They had intended to spend Saturday night at a park in Shirley next to a toilet, but a friend took them in.

If only for some small comfort, they exchanged their small hatchback car for a friend's bigger car, so they could both fit into it.

The Russian couple Nikolai, 67, and Irina, 68, were on Friday forced from the garage where they shared a single camp stretcher for weeks while they waited for state housing.

They are two of 272 Cantabrians on Housing New Zealand's priority A waiting list - a number that has grown by 100 people since December.

Seventy-one Housing NZ applications still sit between the Zvyagins and a new home.


The Zvyagins had been living in Oxana Pyntya's garage, until Housing NZ threatened to terminate Pyntya's contract unless the Zvyagins were gone by Friday.

They intended to sleep in their tiny car, or pitch a tent in a city park near a toilet, but luckily had one last night with a roof over their heads.

When The Press highlighted their plight, the couple were inundated with offers of accommodation and support.

But wary that the temporary solution would jeopardise their place on the state housing waiting list, they declined help until they could find a permanent home.

Instead, on Saturday night a friend, worried for their welfare in the rain and cold temperatures, took them in.

But the Zvyagins no longer want to be a burden on people.

"We don't want to overburden people with our problems. Our health issues will inevitably put pressure on other people," Nikolai Zvyagin said through a translator.

"However, if our problem is not resolved until it becomes too cold, we will have to use the kind suggestions of help."

The couple are both New Zealand citizens. They moved to New Zealand eight years ago to be closer to their daughter and both initially had jobs.

Irina's health problems now prevent her from working, and Nikolai said no-one will hire him because of his age.

Their daughter is working overseas at present.

Nikolai Zvyagin said he was "very touched" by offers of help from Press readers.

"However, if we use any of these kind suggestions we will lose the opportunity to solve our problem soon.

"Just two days ago Housing NZ suggested to us to keep living in the garage in return for taking us off their emergency waiting list."

Nikolai Zvyagin was so desperate he wrote to Housing NZ asking to move into an empty state house next door, and offered to carry out the repair work himself.

However, Housing New Zealand regional manager southern Symon Leggett said the unsafe units had "significant structural damage".

Leggett said the Zvyagins had a "high priority" for housing, and they had been spoken to about other options.

The Press