Locals left homeless, while Housing NZ flogs off 25 state houses

People are living in cars in Whanganui while Housing New Zealand sells off its property.

And the new chairman of the Wanganui Housing Trust, Glenn Anderson, says the Government and Whanganui District Council providers are not doing enough to meet housing needs.

"If Housing New Zealand was committed to Whanganui, it would determine the current need and have a configuration of the properties needed," Mr Anderson said yesterday.

In fact, with just six properties available last month and 25 houses up for sale, Housing New Zealand regional manager Keith Hilson described the district as having "low demand".

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However, at that time, Ministry of Social Development figures revealed it had a total of 29 Whanganui individuals or families on its housing priority list. Of those 29 in need, 19 were "at risk" and had immediate needs, according to the Ministry, with 10 deemed to have "significant and persistent need".

Mr Anderson said he had been to meetings where Housing New Zealand told agencies demand was low, when the agencies knew it was high for them.

He said, as state housing was being sold off, people were living in cars or seeking out unsuitable low-cost emergency accommodation. A man with a dog used to park behind the former railway station, and an Auckland couple with two children had been parking at the beach and other "discreet" places.

He found them a place at $20 a night in one of the two houses that Wanganui Housing Trust runs, but they didn't want it.

Mr Anderson said when he came to Whanganui four years ago, things were better.

"When I first came, someone could still rock up to Housing New Zealand and talk to somebody. There was a time when the Government would house people who the private sector wouldn't house because the risk was too great.

"It was a pretty good landlord, with pretty good systems."

The Housing New Zealand office in Victoria Ave has been closed to the passing public for some time. People can only get into the office if they have a pre-arranged appointment. They can also access agency by freephone.

Mr Anderson said desperate people had been told to hop in a car and go to the regional office in Palmerston North - "These are the people that haven't got $5 to get from Castlecliff to town once a week." Single people find it hardest to get a state house. They're only given one and two-bedroom houses, with larger ones reserved for families. Housing New Zealand does have plans to build more one-bedroom houses but in other centres, not in Whanganui.

Figures show that at March 31, there was one one-bedroom property available, but eight people wanting one. Another 12 people wanted two-bedroom properties, of which there were five available.

Mr Anderson said there was enough local need to fill the 25 houses that were up for sale.

He said single people should be given bigger houses if that was all that was available.

"We are a high-needs city, like Gisborne. Yet they're flogging off houses, having changed the criteria, and therefore reporting back to the Minister that the need isn't there."

Whanganui District Council pensioner flats were not much help, he said.

Mr Anderson had recently got a client into one that had been empty for two years, and said it would help if more people knew they were available.

The Wanganui Housing Trust has had two houses available for people in emergency situations but sometimes they're both full.

Mr Anderson's predecessor, Sian MacGibbon, told the Chronicle last month: "When we are full and get inquiries, it's very hard to say no. That's quite sad, because it's like - where do you go?"

HOUSING NEW ZEALAND

- Has 594 houses in Whanganui.

- Demand fluctuates - last month six houses available, 29 individuals or
groups wanting them.

- The number of state houses intended to stay the same or decrease.

- No new houses built in last two years.

- 127 houses sold since mid-2013.

- 25 for sale at present.

- Sale money used to build houses in high-needs centres.