11 Feb 2019

Woman's surgery delayed because she doesn't have a home to go to: 'There's nothing you can do'

10:00 am on 11 February 2019

A Lower Hutt woman who needs surgery for a debilitating spinal injury can't get it - because she doesn't have a home to go to afterwards.

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Photo: 123RF

Vanessa is a single mother who's been in emergency housing for a year because there is nowhere for her and her boys to go.

She had been on the social housing list that whole time, and every week went to at least five flat viewings.

Vanessa had good credit, and good references from previous landlords.

The solo mum from Lower Hutt had to move out of a private rental just after Christmas in 2017, because the owners had family who needed somewhere to live.

"I searched high and low for a house, went to viewings, there would be like 100 people turn up at every viewing, we drove around, and we ended up homeless in this situation."

She and her two sons had been living in a motel since last February.

"The emotions that you go through, it's just phenomenal. As a mother you feel like you've broken your children, that you haven't provided and there's nothing you can do, nothing.

"People say, 'What about this house?' but it's beyond my price range."

Vanessa's situation was complicated by a spinal cord injury she got when she was tackled playing football in 2012.

"Some of my discs slid across and completely trapped my spinal cord and my nerves. I've got no reflexes in my leg ... the pain is phenomenal, phenomenal."

It meant she couldn't work, and needed a property that was on the ground level.

The Ministry of Social Development said Vanessa had a high rating on the social housing register which reflected her urgent housing need but the kind of property that would suit her was in high demand.

It said it had a number of clients who had a higher rating because their need was greater.

Vanessa was not alone in what she was going through.

Figures showed the number of emergency accommodation grants paid in Lower Hutt alone jumped from 348 in September 2017 to 600 last September.

The local council was trying to address homelessness and was consulting on a strategy to beat it this month.

Increasing rents were leading to increasing homelessness, the council's principal policy advisor John Pritchard said.

"The main reason for homelessness for most people is the lack of suitable and affordable housing. There's not enough access to social or public housing. Rental housing the private rental sector is increasingly expensive in this city; we've seen a lot of increases in the past few years."

A meeting to discuss how to implement the council's strategy to beat homelessness had been brought forward to March.

Rents were also up in other parts of the region - recent Trade Me statistics showed Wellington city was the most expensive place to rent in the country.

The cost of renting had gone up faster than usual in the past six years, the Property Investors' Federation's Andrew King said.

"That's because we've had a lot of cost increases and a lot of extra regulation coming our way, which has made it more expensive to actually provide rental properties.

"Unfortunately that does seem to be coming through in rental price increases."

Mr King said rents would continue to rise.

In the meantime, Vanessa and her family would remain stuck in a motel, hoping to find a place to call home. "It has its good times, but at the bad times, it's an absolute nightmare, it's an absolute nightmare."

She said she had no choice but to keep waiting, and hoping, for something to come up.

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