Sonya is a social issues reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

'Solutions' aired over Tauranga housing

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HELPING HAND: Kellie Kioa, with Alilia Kioa, 7, Nikau Kioa, 3, Kelly Lutui, 14 weeks, and Taya Kioa, 9.PHOTO/GEORGE NOVAK
HELPING HAND: Kellie Kioa, with Alilia Kioa, 7, Nikau Kioa, 3, Kelly Lutui, 14 weeks, and Taya Kioa, 9.PHOTO/GEORGE NOVAK

State housing tenants who shelter their suddenly homeless family members could be putting their tenancies at risk, a community meeting was told.

Other people are considering opening up their garages as emergency shelters, it was revealed at the gathering.

Community leaders held a meeting at Merivale School on Tuesday to discuss temporary solutions to the housing shortage hitting vulnerable families in Tauranga, including the possibility of opening up city buildings with kitchen and bathroom facilities to people living in their cars.

Merivale School principal Jan Tinetti said that of her school's roll of 150, 10 children and their families were homeless, with two more about to lose their homes.

Tommy Wilson, Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services Trust social services director, said he knew of about 140 homeless people in Greerton, Gate Pa and Merivale - not including the "streeties" or the people living in overcrowded houses or garages.

People at the meeting admitted to breaking their Housing New Zealand tenancy agreements to take in family members who had lost their homes due to landlords selling or raising rents to a level the tenants could not afford.

One Gate Pa resident said she had a two-bedroom state house with 11 people in it, including two young mothers with babies.

She worried about what would happen if Housing NZ found out about her situation, but said she could not let young mums live on the street.

Kellie Kioa, manager of Te Tawharau o te Ora, said she lived in a state house and took in whanau. During the meeting, the sound of heavy rain almost drowned out the voices - something Ms Kioa used to punctuate the problem. Ms Kioa asked the audience to imagine sleeping in the car in that weather.

She had come up with the idea of "pop-up shelters", asking organisations or people with big sections to become a "pop-up host" and offer to take in families. A person might have an empty garage that only needed a bit of insulation to make it habitable.

"It's not a solution, but it's better than nothing, just to get something started. Our problem is we don't have enough houses here."

Merivale resident Nick Scullin said he had been taking in families who could not get houses, either private or state-owned.

"I've got wage earners in my family who can't get a house."

Possible solutions discussed at the meeting included opening up the Merivale Action Centre as a place for people to have a wash and cook a meal, asking people with large backyards to let a family park a caravan and opening up empty council land for people to camp on.

Welcome Bay Community Centre manager Anna Larsen suggested setting up a network of tradies that could do a bit of pro bono work to make garages serviceable as short-term tenancy options.

Tauranga deputy mayor Kelvin Clout was quizzed at the meeting about what the council could do.

Mr Clout said the council did not have any empty houses on its books that he knew of, and it was working to open up land for housing development.

"We're doing as much as we can on the ground."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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