Fifteen determined activists marched on Housing New Zealand in Papakura yesterday to protest against state houses lying empty while families with nowhere to go live in cars.
Housing New Zealand says the empty houses are either too big or too small for most people applying. But protest organiser Connie Raiwhara accused the state agency of lying to homeless people in need of shelter.
"What we're protesting today is that Housing Corp is telling people applying for houses that they've got no houses. How can you say that when you've got empty houses sitting around?"
The agency wouldn't even allow tenants to move to state houses in other areas of the country. "We've got people in Papakura who want transfers to different towns but Housing Corp won't give them their transfers.
The South Auckland Social Justice Network, a newly formed organisation with a range of activists from the region, helped organise the protest and plans more in other South Auckland suburbs.
Network spokesman Alan Johnson said people were now living on the streets because Housing New Zealand would not provide them with shelter.
"In Manurewa where I live we now see people literally living in parks. That idea of street homelessness, from my memory, has never been around in South Auckland.
"What we see from time to time are families coming in with literally nowhere to stay, living in a car - somehow they don't meet Housing New Zealand's criteria.
"It's a fairly obscure process being run by bureaucrats who now hide in offices and behind an 0800 number."
Housing New Zealand South Auckland manager Denise Fink said the agency would contact the protesters and address their concerns. "We're aware there was a small group in Papakura earlier this afternoon. We'll be contacting representatives of this group of local stakeholders as soon as possible to meet with them to discuss any issues they may have."
She said houses were empty because of the oversupply of three-bedroom homes in Papakura.
"Most of our demand is for large, four-plus-bedroom homes, or smaller one- and two-bedroom properties. We currently have too many older, three-bedroom homes in Papakura that we don't have the demand for, which is why we have some vacant properties in the area. We are actively working to allocate vacant Papakura properties to families on the waiting list; however, very few need three-bedroom homes."