Christchurch families turn to renting garages
Garages are now being rented to homeless Christchurch families for as much as $150 a week.
Agencies say people are not only living in cars but paying to live in garages.
Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee told The Press last week the city's housing shortage was not a crisis.
More than 200 people commented on the online story at the weekend, some calling for Brownlee to be sacked.
"I think there is certainly a difficulty for some people, and no-one's denying that, but I'm far from convinced it's the crisis some of our political opponents want to describe it as," Brownlee said yesterday.
"We've tried to insulate people from the worst effects of what has been a very big disaster, and you can't get it 100 per cent for everybody all the time."
Brownlee's denial of a crisis angered those working in the Christchurch housing market.
Tenants Protection Association manager Helen Gatonyi said her staff fielded at least half a dozen calls from families facing homelessness on a daily basis.
"The definition of crisis is a time of difficulty or distress or crucial or decisive movement, so I am very inclined towards the belief that we have a damn crisis," she said. "I just wonder if he is living in the same city as me?"
Christchurch Salvation Army Major Mike Allwright said more than 50 families were "of major concern" to the agency.
Social workers were aware of families sleeping in cars and paying to live in garages, he said.
"I think this might be a fraction beyond just a major issue, especially when we know it is going to get worse."
Christchurch East Labour MP Lianne Dalziel also knew of families renting out garages for about $150 a week.
"Garages now have a market value. The Government is not seeing the multiple layers of the crisis."
The most vulnerable people appeared to be slipping through the cracks, she said.
When owners of quake-damaged homes entered the rental market, with insurance companies picking up their rental tab, they displaced many tenants who could not compete with soaring rents.
"Those are the people we are seeing in the cars and the garages, because they can't access Government support."
The temporary villages and temporary accommodation subsidy is only available for people displaced from their residential homes, not for tenants forced out of the rental market, she said.
- The Press