Four hundred and forty. That's the number of children in Hawke's Bay living in motels under the government's emergency and transitional housing plans.

"It's just frustrating. I feel like I'm failing my children and I feel like they're being robbed of their childhood", says Laura Hartley.

For four months solo mother Hartley and her five children, all under the age of six, have called a motel room home.

Bed bugs

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Her and her children started off in a motel in Hastings but due to the children getting "eaten alive" by bed bugs they have recently been transferred to a motel in Napier.

"It's been hard because they've all been sleeping in one bedroom and they all struggle to get a good night's sleep and end up staying up till 10 or 11 at night and get up at 6 and as soon as one gets up in the night they all wake up," Hartley said.

"I'm literally worn out but I have to keep going and stay strong for the sake of my kids."

Moving on

Hartley said she had never always struggled having previously been stable in their home for five years and after the landlord sold their rental and then moved to another rental which was once again sold and since then has struggled to find a rental for them all to live.

"I feel as soon as they see how many children I've got it's sort of like a black mark over our name instantly," she said.

"In some circumstances I have had to lie about the number of kids I have just to have a chance and at least get my foot in the door for a viewing."

Councillor Maxine Boag says the big issue with all this is the lack of housing in the region. Photo / Paul Taylor
Councillor Maxine Boag says the big issue with all this is the lack of housing in the region. Photo / Paul Taylor

She says she knows that she faces a hard time finding a house as a beneficiary but says that those living in transitional housing aren't only those on the benefit but every day regular people with full time jobs.

"In the complex I'm in there's about 12 rooms with families and about 26-28 children living there," she said.

Ordinary people

"And they're all ordinary people as well, there was a lawyer in a unit beside me because they were struggling to find a place to live, even my kid's dental nurse was in transitional housing because she couldn't afford a place to live in."

Hartley said she has had people come up to her and tell her she was living in luxury in a motel, but for her she feels it's like living in a prison and finds it particularly hard for her children.

"There's security cameras everywhere and it feels like you're being watched and can't seem to settle down, but it's hard for the kids because they have nowhere to play and just be kids.

Getting out

"Every weekend I try to get them to the park to run around and let off some steam because they would just go crazy stuck in the room all day and make noise which could get us kicked out and once you get kicked out you lose the support from Housing New Zealand," she said.

"So we just have to act like we are invisible and try not trouble any of the guests in fear of getting kicked out."

Not enough houses

Napier City Councillor Maxine Boag said the situation for people living in motels isn't great and especially in some cases where people are living in just one room.

"The situation (living in motel) is far from ideal and it makes it hard for these people because they pretty much live from day to day.

"I heard a story of an older couple and their grandchildren, a teenage boy and a teenage girl, and they were all living in a one-bedroom motel, which is far from ideal for anyone."

But she does say that the big issue for it is quite clear of why people are in this situation.

"The big issue is that there are not enough houses and not enough state housing in particular or affordable rentals.

"I had a look on Trade Me at one-bedroom places and they range from $220 to $400 and even the cheaper options still have a bond of around $1100 which is a lot for people who are struggling."

Slow going

Having spent months in the system Hartley says things in the housing sector need to change not only for her sake but for other families as well.

"It's not that I'm ungrateful for the help we are getting, it's just it gets really hard over so many months and not see any real progress coming through."

What do you think?
Over the next week or so, Hawke's Bay Today is going to highlight our housing crisis, with a view to presenting solutions.

They are out there in our communities.

Solutions that could come from iwi, from local or central government, from local businesses.

Strong regions don't just thrive on economic success — they thrive on a sense of community, with empathy for others, strong leadership and action.

We think we are in danger of ignoring, and accepting our housing crisis.

So we aim to shine a light on it, with a view to finding some solutions.

So there you have it. Hawke's Bay, we have a problem.

What are we going to do about it?
Craig Cooper
Editor