Nine families in Whangarei motel for weeks waiting for suitable houses

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Whangarei mothers Janie Davis, second right, with daughter Dynahlee Toeke, 4, and Renee Shelford with daughter Elizabeth Roze, 5, and son Lyrell Marino Victor Te-Tai, 5 months.
Whangarei mothers Janie Davis, second right, with daughter Dynahlee Toeke, 4, and Renee Shelford with daughter Elizabeth Roze, 5, and son Lyrell Marino Victor Te-Tai, 5 months.

A government agency is shelling out thousands of dollars in rent each week for nine families staying in a Whangarei motel while waiting for state houses to become available.

Work and Income is paying Kamo Motel $3175 per week for three families alone and has, since last September, spent more than $33,000 or $1610 weekly on two rooms occupied by a mother and her five children.

Apart from being on Housing New Zealand's waiting list, the desperate families are also liaising with real estate agents to secure suitable accommodation in Whangarei.

The Ministry of Social Development declined to comment on how long the nine families have stayed in the motel and at what cost to taxpayers, saying it was personal information.

Whangarei mother Janie Davis said she did not wish the experience she was going through on anybody.

In September last year, she left a Tikipunga rental property she had been occupying for eight years after the owner decided to sell.

Ms Davis moved into two rooms at Kamo Motel with her six children aged between four and 18.

"A three-bedroom house is enough for me and my kids but Housing NZ thinks I need four bedrooms. It's really hard especially with a large family and the kids can't do what they want to do, they don't have their own space," she said.

Sometimes, she said her children cried in bed because of their living conditions.

"I don't have any option but to keep trying Housing NZ and private rentals."

Solo mother Renee Shelford has been staying in the motel for four weeks with her 5-year-old son and a 5-month-old daughter and hoped to find a suitable house soon.

Work and Income is paying $770 per week for a studio unit her family is occupying.

"That $770 could go towards a deposit for a new house. I've been looking for a house since September last year and it's been tough."

Another woman, who did not want to be identified, is in her fourth week at the motel with three teenage sons.

She lived in a Housing New Zealand property in Auckland for 20 years before moving to Whangarei last year and living in emergency housing provided by the Tai Tokerau
Emergency Housing Charitable Trust in Otaika.

"I had to move out after two months. I knew people were living in motels so I came to this motel and the owner gave me the contact details for WINZ who surprisingly agreed to me staying here.

"But it's really hard because I don't have family support here so it's difficult to hunt for houses. I feel sorry for people who've been here longer with kids much younger than mine," she said.

Kamo Motel co-owner Ron Rim said the ministry started referring people in need of state housing to his motel about six months ago and their situation was reviewed weekly.

"I wish they (could) move into suitable houses and sometimes I write references to help them with private rentals," he said.

A ministry spokesman said applicants were matched to social housing based on their assessed housing need, which took account of their individual circumstances and specific housing requirements.

"There may be additional factors that could contribute to a delay in receiving an offer of housing, including if they have not provided us with all the information needed to finalise their assessment, or if they have been suspended by a social housing provider for past poor tenancy behaviour."

Commenting specifically on Ms Davis case, ministry's associate deputy chief executive, Kay Read, said she has not yet been matched to an appropriate property or received an offer of social housing.

Her family's need for a large house that was close to specialist schooling meant her options were very limited, he said.

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