Empty housing units finally available for homeless in Kaikōura

From Checkpoint, 5:46 pm on 11 March 2019

Just over a month ago, a small emergency housing village in Kaikōura was sitting completely empty.

The district was - and is - in the grasp of a homelessness crisis but strict criteria meant almost everyone in need of accommodation like it was not eligible.

At the time the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) said it was not planning to change the criteria anytime soon but after the Checkpoint story was published, things started changing.

There are seven units in total - each with two bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen.

Local Māori Council representative Ngaio Te Ua, in January, was desperately trying to get her clients into them.

Since then much has changed she said.

"We've had contact with the national manager of the temporary accommodation services who recommended to minister [Jenny] Salesa that four of the units be given for transitional housing. They have also decided to give the lease of the seven units in the village to the Kaikōura [District] Council.

"We're just waiting on the council to go through all their process before we can get people in there which is, at the end of the day, the main thing."

In January, Julia Shanahan, of MBIEs temporary accommodation services said it wasn't in a position "to repurpose the use of the village". 

"Once the needs of that community have been met, in terms of earthquake-related building and that has been completely satisfied, we will be open to repurposing the village," she said back then.

However, the situation has seen a 180-degree turn.

In a statement, MBIE said four of the seven units would be repurposed and handed to the Kaikōura District Council.

The three others would remain with MBIE, who said one family had already moved into them.

Both the council and Ngaio believed it was the tough criteria imposed by MBIE which resulted in people in need not being eligible to stay in these units.

"There are no social homes available, there are no rental properties available. People can buy their homes, but you know not everybody's got hundreds of thousands of dollars to do that. The public could see that there was something fundamentally wrong with that, and they [MBIE] were exposed," Ms Te Ua said.

A spokesperson from MBIE was not available for comment.

Kaikōura District Council would also not comment until its conversations with MBIE were complete. It would not say how many people were still on its housing register.

Ngaio said the Māori Council would now work with the council to try to establish criteria for the four repurposed units.

"The need is here for that housing. There are people who've all got different stories, living in all different situations who need those units now. They needed them yesterday, actually."