Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Family in illegally converted garage faces eviction

Samoanagalo Loelu with her son Charlie in the one bedroom converted garage they rent for $220 a week in Mangere, Auckland. Photo / Greg Bowker
Samoanagalo Loelu with her son Charlie in the one bedroom converted garage they rent for $220 a week in Mangere, Auckland. Photo / Greg Bowker

A family living in a South Auckland garage faces eviction in October because the landlord converted it into a flat without a council permit.

Samoanagalo Ioelu, Nick Mah Yen and their 11-month-old son Charlie have been living in the Manurewa garage since their landlord converted it into a three-room flat just after Charlie was born.

From the street, the building still looks like a conventional garage with a roller door taking up most of the frontage.

Behind the door, the garage now boasts a small living room with a large mat covering the floor, a bedroom and a bathroom for which Ioelu and Mah Yen pay $220 a week.

"It's a really nice house. It's warm," Ioelu said. "At the moment we couldn't afford the $300-and-something a week for rent [anywhere else] because at the moment my husband is the only worker."

But landlord Satya Silan said the council had told him to evict the family by October because he did not get a building permit for the conversion and the concrete floor is only fractionally above ground level.

"A standard house has to be 15cm above the ground, which this does not comply with," he said.

Ioelu said she was living with her parents before she had her baby, but once the baby was born she and Mah Yen needed more space.

She has asked Work and Income for social housing and has been told to come back this week with proof of the family's finances and impending eviction.

"I can't go on the road, I can't go sleep in the car with my son, he's too young," she said.

Meanwhile several people who have recently been homeless are among 450 people who have made submissions to an inquiry on homelessness by the Labour, Green and Maori parties which opens at Te Puea Marae in Mangere Bridge tomorrow Monday.

Although National MPs refused to support the inquiry when it was proposed in Parliament's social services committee, National coalition partner Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox said her party supported it because addressing homelessness was her top priority in the Ministerial Committee on Poverty.

"New Zealanders in general are disturbed by the fact that we have a homelessness situation in this country. This is not the Aotearoa that we want to live in," she said.

Labour MP Phil Twyford said it was "profoundly shocking" that families with children, many of them in paid work, were living in cars and garages because they could not afford anywhere else.

Green MP Marama Davidson said: "The whole point is for the country to have a direct and clear understanding of what is actually happening to be able to move people enough that we collectively demand some change and some solutions."

- NZ Herald

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