19 Sep 2016

Will Housing NZ's motel buy force others on the street?

9:09 pm on 19 September 2016

In front of South Auckland's Cimarron Motel units are tricycles, toys and pot plants - small landmarks of lives that inhabit the cinderblock complex.

But Housing New Zealand has just bought the 11 unit motel in Takanini to use as emergency housing and some of the current tenants said they were struggling to find somewhere else to go.

Now current long term residents of a motel in South Auckland fear they will be made destitute after Housing New Zealand bought the property to use as emergency housing for the homeless.

Current tenant Diane Campbell

Current tenant Diane Campbell. Photo: RNZ / Eva Corlett

Three units are rented by Max and his extended family, another unit rented by an elderly couple who have lived there 11 years, one unit houses a solo father and another is a mid-term home for a woman going through a divorce.

The motel is as much a community as it is an affordable base for those who live there.

Current tenant Diane Campbell said the tenants supported one another.

"Some of us are lucky we work full-time and we're here for a different reason," Ms Campbell said.

"Roland was here to re-start again because he'd been down in Christchurch, I'm here because my marriage has broken up and I need to recoup while I fight the battle.

"Everyone's got a reason and so you sort of look after each other."

Over the next few months, they will all have to find somewhere else to live.

For some, that means sleeping on couches, for others, uncertainty.

She said Housing New Zealand had not contacted any of the current residents, some of whom were on benefits and in need of housing support themselves.

Ms Campbell said one tenant had moved out already and was living on a couch at her daughter's house.

Cimarron Motel

Cimarron Motel Photo: RNZ / Eva Corlett

It is the first motel the government has purchased as part of their plan to provide extra emergency housing.

But Ms Campbell said creating emergency housing by making others homeless was illogical.

"Why are you [Housing New Zealand] removing people who are now living on couches - isn't this the whole housing issue in South Auckland?"

The tenants have had no communication from the housing organisation since the property manager Propertex handed out eviction notices.

Ms Campbell said the only sign the tenants have had of Housing New Zealand was before the sale when they entered the units without notice to chemically spray for methamphetamine traces.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Social Development has since said staff would be phoning tenants to find out what help they may need, and that follow-up appointments would be made as necessary.

The ministry hoped the motel would accommodate between 25 and 30 people once they took possession in mid-November, the spokesperson said.

Another tenant, Max, has been living there for a year. Two of his daughters rent separate units and both have children of their own.

He said Housing New Zealand should have spoken to the tenants and provided immediate support.

"Are they going to put us on the streets too? Because at the moment it's pretty hard out there. We've been applying for houses, but you're only allowed so many people in a house and what do we do with the rest of our kids?"

"Do we have to put them out on the street?

He said the government needed a wake-up and that there were people struggling.

Housing New Zealand declined to speak to RNZ News.

Cimarron Motel

Cimarron Motel - a community to many. Photo: RNZ / Eva Corlett

The deputy Chief Executive for the Ministry of Social Development Kay Read said in an email she understood the tenants may feel uncertainty and stress.

She said a team from the ministry was due to visit the motel this afternoon to talk to the current owner about the needs of the existing tenants and speak to the tenants directly.

However, this did not eventuate and instead they called the current owner to set up an appointment, and will be phoning the tenants at a later date.

The government will take possession in mid-November and expects to accommodate between 25 and 30 people at a time for short term stays.