No more money to solve housing woes: poll

02:36, May 18 2012

The majority of readers are against further taxpayer money spent on housing for low-income families, despite over-crowding and people living on the streets.

A Nelson Mail unofficial poll this morning showed almost 60 per cent of 217 voters believed the Government should not allocate more money to providing affordable accommodation for low-income families.

The remaining 40 per cent though the Government should invest more money into it, while 4 per cent didn't know.

The online poll ran following revelations yesterday that 65 Housing NZ homes were overcrowded in Nelson based on the agency's guidelines, which says there should be no more than two people per bedroom. The rules also say that children 10 or older of the opposite sex should not share a bedroom.

The Nelson Mail spoke with residents this week who were living in over-crowded homes breaching the guidelines, saying it was there only option because it was all they could afford with the available rentals.

The author of a study into the city's homeless population, Jane Worthington, also said she believed homelessness was getting worse.


However, many voters were unsympathetic and called for the affected people to make better decisions.

``Geez, times are tough, we all know it . .  .but are these people for real! . . .Kids cost money and they take up room - these are simple facts and as a parent you've got to use your brain and do the maths. It's not my problem as a hard working parent of two young children, to pay taxes to support people who expect to be taken care of,'' said a reader echoing dozens of online comments yesterday.

Whether a property is overcrowded or under-used is determined by applying a modified version of the Canadian National Occupancy Standard, which says there should be no more than two people per bedroom. The rules also say that children 10 or older of the opposite sex should not share a bedroom.

Families on the brink

Nelson grandmother Tui Anderson was part of a struggling family, living in an over-crowded home because they were so desperate for affordable accommodation. Mrs Anderson, 53 said she was forced to move in with her 29-year-old daughter last year, sleeping in the car port, to avoid life on the streets.

"Now I'm sleeping in the sitting room. I used to live on Vanguard St, but after my partner went to prison I couldn't afford it any more,'' she said.

There were nine people, three adults and six children, living in a three-bedroom house, said Mrs Anderson, who worked as a part-time cleaner. She hoped to pick up for more work so she could move out, into her own place, but most rents were unaffordable, she said.

Nelson single mother Venese Baird said she narrowly avoided sleeping in a car with her five children, but was placed in a Housing New Zealand home just in time last year. But, a friend was not so lucky.

Her 35-year-old female friend and teenage daughter slept in a car, parked up her driveway for four months before finding a rental home she could afford, Ms Baird said.

"They had to move to Blenheim because they couldn't find anythign in Nelson," she said.

Shayn and Chanelle Moffatt iive in a two-bedroom Housing NZ home on Main Rd, Stoke, with three children and another on the way.

Their children – Levi, 7, C'era, 5, and James, 16 months – share a room and Mrs Moffatt is due to give birth to a baby boy on July 31.

Mr Moffatt said they had asked to be transferred to a three-bedroom house after living at the Main Rd property for four years, but it was not happening fast enough.

"Everyone's in each other's face. There's no space. There's no privacy," he said.

Mrs Moffatt said she thought the age should be younger than that because a seven-year-old boy shouldn't have to get dressed in front of his sister.

"I think 10 is ridiculous. I think they should have separate rooms at their ages, being a boy and a girl," she said. Mr Moffatt said the family was paying $130 a week for rent, which was income adjusted because he was out of work.

"I don't make enough money with my on and off jobs to pay for a private rental," he said.

Housing NZ southern region tenancy services manager Symon Leggett said there were two three-bedroom houses available in the Nelson region at the moment, in Washington Valley and Motueka.

Mr Leggett said the Moffatts asked for a transfer in December 2010, completed a needs assessment and were asked to supply supporting documents about their income. They never provided the documents so the request didn't progress any further.

He said they requested a transfer again in March this year and went through an options and advice session early last month.

Housing NZ contacted them a week later and Mr Leggett said Mr Moffatt told the agency's tenancy adviser that he was unsure if they would progress their application and he would get back to them.

"The corporation has yet to hear from Mr Moffat," he said.

Mr Leggett said overcrowding was just one area the agency looked at when determining a request for a transfer.

"We also assess [it] against waiting list demands, available housing and whether their needs are more serious than those on the waiting list."

Ms Worthington said the pressure on home affordability in Nelson was causing a trickle-on effect, which made the city's most vulnerable residents more likely to become homeless.


Housing New Zealand has 715 properties in the Nelson region; Nearly 10 per cent – about 65 buildings – are overcrowded; 43 properties have one bedroom, 364 have two, 264 have three, 37 have four and seven have five; Nearly 6 per cent – about 40 properties – are under utilised; Whether a property is overcrowded or under-utilised is determined by applying a modified version of the Canadian National Occupancy Standard; The average length of tenancy for Housing NZ properties in Nelson is 8.41 years, As at March 31, there were 19 applicants on the waiting list.

The Nelson Mail