Cruise ships for the homeless have to 'make some money'

Cruise ships for the homeless have to 'make some money'

A businessman who wants to house Auckland's homeless in cruise ships has admitted the idea won't float if investors can't "make some money" from the idea.

Garry House reckons he can get an old cruise ship at the end of its seagoing life for as little as $5 million.

"We've researched it on the internet and made some phone calls, and there's quite a few ships for a few million euros which are available," he told Paul Henry on Wednesday.

"These ships are in various stages of seaworthiness, but most of them are able to come to New Zealand."

He's got his eye on a 400-bed liner currently moored in Europe.

"We have other charges like mooring fees and legal fees on top of that, but I still think it's quite cheap compared to half-a-dozen houses in Auckland."

But he hasn't checked it out yet, saying he'd fly to Europe to scope out the condition of any ships before bringing them home. And it won't happen unless there's some money to be made.

"We have to cover our costs and make some money, but the main thing is about trying to solve a problem which we see in Auckland."

Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett says cruise ships aren't at the top of her list, and has concerns putting 400 homeless people in a confined space will encourage the spread of disease. Mr House says there's nothing to worry about, because people can leave the ship when they want, and if a virus did take hold, it wouldn't be anything exotic -- "just our local diseases".

Labour's Phil Twyford says the idea's no crazier than the existing housing situation, and the idea has the backing of Te Puea Marae, which is currently looking after dozens of homeless families.

It's no immediate fix -- a cruise ship would take weeks to get here, and there's a lot of work to be done before it even departs.

"We have to develop a concept document and paper, carry out risk assessments, feasibility studies," says Mr House.

But he thinks the public is "overwhelmingly" on side with the plan.

"We need to look at this and deal with it and find solutions, not be negative."


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