South Auckland woman living in car with two kids gets emergency accommodation from Ministry of Social Development

A south Auckland woman living in a car with her two children was told she would have to wait weeks for transitional housing.   

But after Newshub made enquiries, the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) said on Friday the woman and her children would be offered short-term emergency accommodation.   

The woman spent the past few nights living in her car with her two children, aged three and 10. 

"The kids cry in the middle of the night. I haven't been able to sleep. It's so hard on us," she told Newshub.   

The 30-year-old asked not to be identified but said she wanted to show the realities of homelessness.  

"My three-year-old, she has asthma and her asthma's starting to flare up."  

The woman said she received a benefit of $450 a week. Renting a property in Auckland would leave her with little money to feed her kids.  

"It's not easy, and I've tried looking for family, friends; it's so hard to house all three of us and living in a car is just so hard."  

She worried about their safety.  

"We've had to move around a couple of times just for the safety of myself and my kids."  

The mother and her children were previously in an emergency housing motel. But a recent trip she took to Australia raised concerns at MSD.  

"I had to do an emergency trip to Sydney as my brother was in a critical condition and I was there for about five days and as I came back, I was told I'm no longer entitled to emergency housing."  

She applied for transitional housing through the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development but was told that it would take weeks.   

"I was gutted. When I came to my car I was crying."  

Jules Lynch, Auckland South Regional Commissioner at MSD, told Newshub the woman failed to disclose her trip.  

"This situation raised a number of questions for us, as she had voluntarily left emergency housing which had already been granted," Lynch said in a statement. 

"When she returned to New Zealand on 21 May, she told us she stayed with her sister. We asked about the travel and the funds she had used for this. If she had cash assets, she would not be eligible for emergency housing. She informed us this travel had been paid for by a friend."  

MSD is now providing the woman with a place to stay. 

"We will be offering her short-term emergency housing while we work with her to explore other long-term accommodation options for her and her children including another referral to a transitional housing provider." 

Housing Minister weighs in

Housing Minister Chris Bishop, speaking to reporters at the Dwell Housing Trust's social housing development in Kilbirnie on Friday, said New Zealanders should not be living on the streets.

"No one should have to live in a car. No one should have to live in an emergency housing motel, and no one should have to live in a tent." 

But being homeless is the reality for thousands of New Zealanders. MSD figures show more than $340 million was spent on emergency housing grants last year. 

To try and get on top of it, the Government is funding 1500 new social housing places. It's using $140 million freed up by cancelling first home grants. 

"A tough decision that the Government's had to make," Bishop told reporters. 

The funding for Community Housing Providers will be available from July next year. The Government promised on Friday to have 500 contracted within the next 12 to 18 months.  

The remaining 1000 homes will come later and be delivered under a new "active purchaser" model, where social housing will be built based on where there is strongest demand.

Labour's Kieran McAnulty accused the Government on Friday of "announcing 500 homes that already exist". 

"We were promised new houses, but that's not what we are getting. All spin, no spanner - these are already rental properties, and the Government wants to swap in and out tenants - it doesn't save a housing crisis when there are no new homes being built." 

But Bishop said that was incorrect.  

"Kieran's claim is wrong. We're funding 1500 new homes for people in need. The vast bulk of those will be new houses."