16 Oct 2017

Eviction forces seriously ill man to live in motel

1:19 pm on 16 October 2017

A seriously ill Tauranga man has been thrown out of his home by the city's main social housing provider and is now living in emergency accommodation in a motel.

Timothy Dalton-Edwards with his sister Karen.

Timothy Dalton-Edwards with his sister Karen. Photo: Supplied

Accessible Properties, a subsidiary of IHC, took over the ownership and management of 1138 Housing New Zealand homes in Tauranga in March.

Timothy Dalton-Edwards said he requested Housing New Zealand test his home for methamphetamine late last year as he suspected a boarder may have been smoking the drug.

Housing New Zealand found the property had been contaminated and decided to rehouse him, but could not find a suitable property prior to the handover of ownership.

Mr Dalton-Edwards said when Accessible Properties took over the property they gave him notice to vacate and made it clear they would not find him another home.

"I've been kicked in the side. Everything was getting done and there were no threats of me having to move out of the house and when the house got turned over to the new owners that's when everything went downhill."

Mr Dalton-Edwards' sister, Karen Dalton-Edwards, said her 35-year-old brother suffered a traumatic head injury several years ago, and is also on dialysis and trying to get healthy enough to undergo a kidney transplant.

They had been living in emergency accommodation in a motel for the past month, which was affecting his health, she said.

"His health is really bad at the moment because he's stressed and he's not in a very good environment. He's worried every week because we have to reapply for this unit every week and it doesn't look very good for us getting houses either."

Ms Dalton-Edwards said Accessible Properties told Mr Dalton-Edwards it objected to the "riff-raff" that was visiting his house.

She believed more should have been done to help her brother.

"I'm really disgusted in the way that the government is looking after him really. He's dying, and I'm just watching him dying with no quality of life."

Accessible Properties said it was unable to comment on a specific case but its Tauranga manager Andrew Wilson provided a statement to RNZ.

"Where methamphetamine testing has established that a house is not safe for living in, or there is a high level of anti-social behaviour affecting others, we have a responsibility to ask people to leave the property," the statement said.

"Since taking over the properties in Tauranga, we have substantially increased the amount of contact between tenancy managers and our tenants and are committed to supporting our tenants and their communities."

A housing advocate who is supporting the Dalton-Edwards, Michael Sharp, said that wasn't good enough.

While allowing methamphetamine to be smoked would breach Mr Dalton Edwards' lease, proper processes should have been followed prior to an eviction, he said.

"These are long term social housing tenants and they've dealt with Housing New Zealand for many years and the practice [when] dealing with Housing New Zealand is to allow them to try to rectify any fault or any issues they have with the way they look after the house.

"So they've gone from that sort of practice to this other approach of just if Accessible Properties doesn't seem to like people, just giving them the 90 days' notice."

Mr Sharp was supporting another Accessible Properties tenant who had been given notice following a positive meth test on their property, even though the tenant said they knew nothing about it.

Housing needs remained high in Tauranga, with more than 150 households on the waiting list for social housing, he said.

Salvation Army analyst Alan Johnson said the sale of so many state houses in Tauranga to Accessible Properties had created a private monopoly that was not subject to scrutiny.

"Housing New Zealand, I think because it's a public agency, was subject to some scrutiny... from say, for example [government] ministers, whereas Accessible Properties is a law unto itself it can get away with that," he said.

"What it means now is that people really don't have any right to housing regardless of how serious your needs are if Accessible Properties choose to ignore them."

In a statement, Social Housing Minister Amy Adams said under the Residential Tenancies Act, all social housing providers such as Accessible Properties have the same obligations as Housing New Zealand to ensure the properties they manage are safe to live in.

The Ministry of Social Development said it was concerned about Mr Dalton-Edwards because he was very unwell.

It was working with his caregiver to look at long-term housing options for him, which could include another Accessible Properties home or other social housing, it said.

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