7 Dec 2017

Govt spent $44,000 for homeless man to live in motel for 58 weeks

From Checkpoint, 5:08 pm on 7 December 2017

Housing Minister Phil Twyford says New Zealand’s longest tax-payer funded emergency housing tenant, Robert Erueti, should never have been evicted from his HNZ home.

Mr Erueti was evicted from his state house, where he lived for more than 15 years, in February last year after traces of methamphetamine were found in his home. Both Ministry of Social Development and Housing New Zealand say there is no evidence he was responsible for the methamphetamine, but as the tenant on the lease, he was evicted as a result.

He has been homeless ever since, living rough, and has spent 58 weeks in a motel, at a total cost to tax-payers of at least $44,000.

He has serious health issues, including diabetes and essential hypertension, which his doctor has raised in letters to the Ministry of Social Development, stressing he needs suitable, stable accommodation.

He is now in a boarding house, which the ministry said was a short term solution, and has deemed it "inadequate" for long-term accommodation. But instead of sleeping there, he spends most nights in a tent near his daughter’s property. He does not want to stay inside her HNZ house out of fear it will breach her tenancy agreement.

Housing Minister Phil Twyford said Mr Erueti should have never been placed in this position.

He said Mr Erueti's situation was a “text-book” case on how the previous government’s policy has had a huge detrimental social and economic impact.

“It’s just untenable that Robert’s been put through that kind of experience.

"One of the problems with the old policy was there was no baseline testing of methamphetamine contamination, putting aside the question of whether the standard was correct or not, people were being evicted because there was some, often infinitesimal contamination found, but there was no proof in most of these cases who was responsible for that.

"We have to find a better approach.”

Mr Twyford said he would see what the ministry could do to help Mr Erueti.

Emergency accommodation costing New Zealand millions

Mr Twyford said earlier this week that the total cost so far of emergency housing, including in motels and hostels, was  $50 million.

Information provided to Checkpoint under the Official Information Act revealed $400,000 had been spent on emergency accommodation for just five families.

The highest cost for one family was $93,000, which covered 45 weeks in emergency accommodation.

Another family spent 14 weeks in emergency accommodation at a cost of $82,000.