A Tauranga mother of six fears the city's unaffordable rental market will force her family into homelessness - again.

Tangiwhetu Williams, 34, her six children aged 4 to 15, and her 25-year-old partner, Michael Sabbeth, live in one of Te Tuinga Whanau Social Services Trust's emergency houses in Greerton.

The eight family members share two bedrooms, and another family lives in the third.

The tidy house is packed but warm and dry - and Williams says many miles better than the cars and tents they slept in last winter.

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She says the pressure of finding a home feels "non-stop".

"Sometimes I don't know how to deal with it."

William's housing issues began in 2014 when the family left Auckland, where they had a five-bedroom Manurewa rental, for Whakatane.

They had stints in a rental, staying with family and in an emergency house and in early 2017 moved to Tauranga to be closer to Sabbeth's work. He has a full-time job installing insulation - the family's sole income, about $900 a week.

They moved between friends' houses as Williams submitted application after application for rentals to no avail.

The Western Bay market was tight, houses were scarce and "really expensive compared to Auckland and Whakatane".

She knew her big family and bad credit history - car payments, power company debts - would not be doing her any favours with property managers who could afford to be picky. She did not blame them.

Tangiwhetu Williams and her 4-year-old son Sloan Williams. Photo/George Novak
Tangiwhetu Williams and her 4-year-old son Sloan Williams. Photo/George Novak

Williams says for four months they had no place to call home. They lived in their cars, which they would park by the beach at Matua, or in tents on family land, finding beds for the children whenever possible.

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"It was hectic," Williams said.

They went to the Baywave aquatic centre to shower. The kids were shunted around schools. Her relationship with Sabbeth was tested.

In May the Government arranged space in the Ambassador Motor Inn for them but Williams said they left after a week because they did not want more debt.

Then came the Greerton home and Te Tuinga Whanau's transitional housing programme.

She started getting budget advice and making plans to tackle the debt. The children settled in and over the past six months they have all breathed a little easier.

She has continued to apply for private rentals.

"Sometimes I think when I'm applying that it's just a waste of time - they must have seen my applications before and they don't even reply."

She found a three-bedroom rental for $580 a week and asked the landlord to drop the price to $500 - still more than the $450 they could afford - but he got a better offer.

After 27 weeks in the emergency home, she believed her allotted time there was due to end in four or five weeks.

"I really have no idea what to do. We will probably end up homeless again," she said on Monday.


Hope on the horizon

A government ministry and an emergency housing provider say the family of eight will not end up on the street.

Ministry of Social Development regional commissioner Mike Bryant said they were doing their best to help Tangiwhetu Williams and her family find long-term, sustainable housing in Tauranga.

In the meantime, the family could stay in transitional housing - something Williams was relieved to hear.

He said Williams' family had been on the social housing register for nearly two years, since March 2016, and acknowledged Tauranga did not have enough state houses.

"As at the end of September, there were 1234 public housing places in the Tauranga district.

"We know we need more and we are aiming to increase this by 150 by 2020."

Te Tuinga Whanau's community projects manager, John Gibson, said the family would hopefully be able to stay in the same home.

He said they were good tenants, engaged in the programme and working to improve their circumstances.

They were ready to move out of transitional housing but Tauranga just did not have the supply of affordable homes - or social housing - right now, he said.


Median rental prices December 2017

Tauranga: $460, up 2.2 per cent year-on-year
1-2 bedroom: $380, up 5.6 per cent
3-4 bedroom: $500, up 4.2 per cent

Western Bay: $450, up 13.2 per cent
1-2 bedroom: $340, up 13.3 per cent
3-4 bedroom: $465, up 8.1 per cent

Source: Trade Me Property Rental Index