Public face of housing crisis speaks

By Doug Laing

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Kimberlee Whaanga has been on a housing waiting list for two months and has four children who are developing health problems sleeping in overcrowded conditions. Pictured with her are Te Atawhai, 9, Teina, 10, and Pare, 12. Photo / Paul Taylor
Kimberlee Whaanga has been on a housing waiting list for two months and has four children who are developing health problems sleeping in overcrowded conditions. Pictured with her are Te Atawhai, 9, Teina, 10, and Pare, 12. Photo / Paul Taylor

Havelock North mum Kimberlee Whaanga thought more than twice about becoming a public face of the housing crisis - but she just had to.

But, facing dilemma common to those caught in-between, being desperate doesn't mean taking whatever comes along. Housing New Zealand has said if she wants a house she's got to move, or it's the private rental market, where the cost can be crippling.

For the sake of the kids, it's the latter, and with a door finally opening yesterday she could be into a home, as long as Work and Income can put up the bond, the advance rent, and the costs, a package of more than $2000.

"Housing New Zealand expected I'll take anything because I'm desperate," she said late yesterday as she took the children along to the school, Havelock North Primary.

It's become their school, three aged 10, 9 and 7, and one aged 12, at the nearby intermediate school.

"That's what's most important," she says. "They've been moved around a bit, but now we've been here four years. It's where their friends are."

She said it started to change earlier this year when she began complaining about the conditions of the rental she was in - problems with the water, and the house not healthy for the children.

It resulted in termination of the rental, and she's been on a Housing New Zealand waiting list for two months, some of the time living in a garage in the hope a suitable home would come up in the area. She has been working two jobs casual part-time, and trying to make sure the children have been able to continue going to school.

A couple she worked for referred her to Ikaroa Rawhiti MP Meka Whaitiri, and she agreed to talk publicly about the plight she shares with thousands of others.

Yesterday, as she was preparing, a door opened with an offer of private rental, so long as she can come up with the money up-front. Work and Income is considering her position, but as she's a cleaner, and the house needs a clean first, she's offered to work some of the passage.

Housing New Zealand expected I'll take anything because I'm desperate.
Kimberlee Whaanga

Ms Whaitiri says Ms Whaanga came with the record of a responsible tenant, but found doors closing just when they half-opened, seemingly because there's some prejudice against children in the private rentals. She said it highlights that the emergency housing shortage is "here in the provinces".

She says the number of people approaching her with emergency housing problems has grown rapidly, the latest yesterday as she learned of five families reportedly accommodated in a Napier motel while they seek homes.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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