Housing NZ 'disappointed' at mum's complaint over move to 'gang area'

By Hannah Bartlett

Housing New Zealand says it is "disappointed" that a mother has complained to the Herald about getting a $3510 Government grant to move out of Auckland to what she calls a "gang area" in Hamilton.

The mother of two, Teri Standen, says the schools for her son in the suburb where they've been housed aren't as good, public transport is more expensive, and she's been horrified to learn there are gang members living in the area.

She was moved to the suburb of Nawton, one the city's western suburbs, at the start of July, for a fresh start with a $3510 Government grant.

But she hates life in Hamilton and says taking the grant was the worst decision of her life.

She is now asking for a transfer back to her old neighbourhood in West Auckland.

She's warning people to do their own research before taking up the offer - as she simply trusted Housing New Zealand to disclose "relevant" information.

"Anyone who's going to take the relocation grant, research where you're going to thoroughly, if you can, and be very wary about where they're putting you," Standen said.

Standen's mother was also given a house on the same street, both just eight days after applying for the grant.

Standen said her 12-year-old son was burnt by another student on his first day at his new school in Hamilton.

"They used a pen and friction on metal so badly they burned his hand," she said.

She could not afford the $17 weekly bus pass for her son to attend the nearest intermediate - more than the $10 a week he paid to go to school in West Auckland.

She said her mother saw Mongrel Mob members outside a bottle shop in Dinsdale and asked her tenancy manager if there were gang members in her area.

"He said, 'Oh yeah, there's gang members here,' and waved his arms indicating the street," she said.

"My 19-year-old daughter hates it. She wants to do 3D animation but they don't offer it down here, they offer it at Unitec in Auckland.

"I have been in hospital twice since I've been down here due to stress."

She said the family only left their house to go shopping because they had heard of burglaries in the area.

"We are basically prisoners in our own home," she said.

"I'll pay the money back. I just want to go back to Auckland. I hate it here."

Housing NZ area manager Karan Frederikson said Standen requested a transfer to Nawton and was initially happy with the house she was given.

"We're disappointed that Ms Standen has gone to the media to complain about her situation," Frederikson said.

"We worked closely with Ms Standen to find her a new home in Hamilton that's close to her family - in fact we offered two homes, one for her and one for her mother, across the road from each other.

"We also made sure she was close to other family. When she was offered the house, her brother who lives very close by went to look at the houses before they moved in and told her they would be great."

However Standen said this was not true. She said she requested a transfer to Hamilton but did not specify Nawton because she didn't know the area, and she didn't know at the time that her brother was living in the city.

"He didn't even know we were moving until after we moved in," she said.

Frederikson said Housing NZ received "extremely mixed messages" from Standen.

"We received excellent feedback from Ms Standen at the time she was placed. She called us to express her gratitude at the great service provided by Housing New Zealand and MSD," she said.

"At that time, in early August, she was stoked to have found a new group of friends, joined a sewing group and was looking for an orienteering club for summer. She has said she couldn't have picked a nicer house if she tried.

"However, in the past few weeks she has complained about a number of different aspects, including small maintenance issues around lighting and cabinetry. She has also expressed concerns about the school and the fact tertiary study options offered in Hamilton aren't suitable for her.

"The area Ms Standen has been placed is also in fact relatively quiet and trouble-free."

She said Standen was not eligible for a Housing NZ transfer but she was welcome to apply for a transfer through the Ministry of Social Development (MSD), which operates the social housing waiting list.

MSD associate deputy chief executive Kay Read said the ministry had been "trying to get hold of Ms Standen for some time to discuss her concerns and if she is interested in doing so, to apply for a transfer".

"If Ms Standen is eligible for a transfer we will work with her to find a suitable property for her to move into," she said.

"It may take some time, however, as there is high demand for social housing in Auckland. Ms Standen will also need to repay $2000 of the $3510.50 she received when she decided to move to Hamilton."

The Government announced in May it would offer grants of up to $5000 to social housing tenants and people on the social housing waiting lists in Auckland to move to regions where state housing is available.

Moving, bond, or advance rental fees are also covered.

The Government allocated enough money to resettle up to 150 families.

It said in June one of the successful applicants had been living in their car in Auckland.

After discussions with Housing New Zealand, she moved into a two-bedroom house in Invercargill, where she had family support.

People had also left Auckland for Rotorua, Tokoroa, and Tawa.

Any successful applicants who move back to Auckland within in a year may be required to pay the grant back.

- NZ Herald

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