10 Feb 2017

WINZ pays nearly $40k for family to live in motel

From Checkpoint, 5:25 pm on 10 February 2017

Janie Davis has been living in a Whangarei motel for six months because she can't find anywhere else to live. Paid for by Work and Income, the bill is now nearing $40,000.

Ms Davis is just one example of a housing crisis that is spreading out of Auckland - she is a high priority on the Housing New Zealand (HNZ) waitlist, and said she has applied for more private rentals than she can count.

But because neither she nor HNZ have been successful, Work and Income has been forced to pay $1610 a week for her family to live at the Kamo Motel for the past six months.

"There've been a number of times where I've even cried myself to sleep, but then I wake up the next day and, new day, start again," Ms Davis said.

In the past 20 years, Ms Davis said she has lived in just two rentals. She left her previous one in September last year because, after eight years living there, the owner decided to sell up.  

Ms Davis' situation is made difficult because she needs a large home - four bedrooms for her and six children aged between four and 18 - and a home close to her children's school - her two eldest are in seventh form.

But Ms Davis said regardless, it should not take six months to find a rental home. Her friend Debbie Rapana, who also spent time a motel while she was on the HNZ waitlist, agreed, and said there are big and small families struggling.

"People there that are working, it's not just beneficiaries. And you've got families at motels that have got two kids, one kid, it doesn't matter how many kids you've got," Ms Rapana said.

Eight of the 12 rooms at the Kamo Motel are occupied by people waiting for a state home. Their rent, around $800 per room, was paid for by the government.

Renee Shelford and her young children have been living there for a month. Like Janie, she said she has applied for dozens of private rentals. She provided paperwork to back up her claim.

"They can keep paying for the rent here, but who wants to live in a motel for the rest of their life with their children?" Ms Shelford said.

The associate deputy chief executive of social housing at the Ministry of Social Development, Kay Read, said in a statement she appreciated Janie's situation was difficult and her options, due to her needs, are limited.

"Should she find a private rental that suits her needs we would be able to assist with upfront costs such as bond and rent in advance," Ms Read said.

"Until she is in an appropriate home for her and her children, we are ensuring the family has somewhere to stay."

In the meantime, Ms Davis said she is trying to stay hopeful.

"I try to have hope.

"I just... we just need our own space," Ms Davis said.