HNZ's Waikato homes stand empty as waiting list grows

Last updated 05:00 22/04/2013
Housing NZ
Ben Curran/Fairfax NZ

EMPTY PROMISE: Helen Gollop and son, Brandon Hodge, in front of the house they used to live it. It now stands empty.

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Close to 300 Housing NZ homes are standing empty in Waikato, despite a 160-name waiting list for accommodation in the region.

And with the vacant houses attracting squatters and vandals, those living next door to these properties are fed up and want tenants in them.

Latest figures show that towards the end of last year, the number of empty state houses in New Zealand rose by 200 in just three months.

But that was matched by 206 applicants joining the waiting list, nationally, in the same period.

Of the 4000 HNZ properties in Waikato, 286 stand vacant with only 20 ready to be let.

Meanwhile, nearly 160 eligible applicants wait for a home.

Those properties not ready to be rented are either for sale, earthquake vulnerable, fire damaged or undergoing maintenance - a job so big it costs HNZ about $160 million a year.

Many of those houses will sit unoccupied or unsold for years.

Helen Gollop and her family lived in a state home in Fairfield for nine years, and knows how hard it is for people to get off the waiting list and into a house.

"There are heaps of empty houses around here and the waiting list is huge and it's just ridiculous," she said.

While 119 of Waikato's empty houses are unavailable because of maintenance issues, Ms Gollop said her house and many others, had never received repair.

"We lived there for nine years and . . . the walls were black with mould, the house is actually sinking, it has never been done up.

"When we started working, we had to pay market rent of $311 and they still never did any maintenance, you couldn't even get them on the phone."

When her family moved out, the house was broken into, vandalised, and occupied by squatters in a matter of days, creating "a lot more for them to fix up now".

A community patrol woman in the area, who would only give her name as June, confirmed there were a lot of empty state houses which, on night patrols, were often seen with cars parked in driveways and lights on inside.

"I would say they are squatters, definitely. They might be people who know others in the area and realised, ‘Hey, there's an empty house', and they can just throw a mattress down," she said.

"It's better than outside or in a garage or something. There's a lot of people with nowhere to go."

Housing New Zealand's Cassandra Rivers said over the next 10 years, they would be buying, selling, redeveloping and upgrading thousands of state homes across the country.

"This will involve improving and upgrading the condition of state housing to a consistent standard, acquiring more housing where it's needed most, through buying, redeveloping or building new homes, and selling houses in areas where there is low demand for state housing. When we sell housing it is to reinvest in our entire housing network."

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- Waikato Times

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