2 Mar 2017

Family forced to live in tent in Cromwell due to rising rent

From Checkpoint, 5:20 pm on 2 March 2017

A Cromwell family is living in a tent because the rent is so expensive.

The Central Otago town is facing an accommodation crisis, with the average price of a house climbing to $500,000 and pushing rents up too.

Larissa Patchett, her partner and their three children are sleeping in a tent in her parents' backyard.

The couple do not earn enough - she is on minimum wage working part time and her partner is paid about $23 an hour - to afford a home once power, groceries and expenses are factored in. 

When they arrived in Cromwell nine years ago, they paid about $300 a week. Now, a rental would cost them $450 to $500 a week. 

Like many seasonal workers in the town, she and her partner had casual contracts and their hours dropped in winter.

"In the middle of winter when it's snowing and people can't get to work, your hours drop and your money drops."

They could not live in her parent's home. Seven was too many to fit. "It's a small house."

The tent was "fine in the summer", but it was starting to get colder, she said. 

"We're quite happy to pay $400 in rent ... but it's finding somewhere."

The couple earned $13 to $20 a week too much to qualify for a Housing New Zealand house. 

They had friends and family in Cromwell. It was a great town to raise children. 

"We are probably going to end up looking at leaving Cromwell."

"I always think that there's someone else out there worse off than us."

She called on politicians to "come and have a look" at the issue.

"Work as a team, that's what Cromwell is about."