Motel rooms a 'prison' for homeless kids

Paula Bennett (Simon Wong/Newshub.)
Paula Bennett (Simon Wong/Newshub.)

Darryl Evans, chief of the in-demand Mangere Budgeting Services, says it's time to stop "throwing stones" at parents struggling to feed their kids.

There have been numerous headlines in recent weeks about families forced to live in cars and derelict housing, as those on the lowest incomes feel the sharp end of Auckland's housing affordability crisis.

The Government's primary solution so far has been to encourage the building of more houses, which critics say takes too long and produces the wrong kind of housing -- too expensive and in the wrong places.

Its emergency housing response has been to put families into motels, then charge them for the privilege. Mr Evans says he's been dealing with one family recently that owes Work and Income $70,000. The mother will be paying it off until she's 122 on her current income.

"Every week there's a chunk of her benefit missing that should be going to put food on the table," he told Paul Henry.

On Wednesday Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett said the Government is considering pre-booking motel rooms to speed up the process. Mr Evans says it's a terrible policy.

"State houses need to be more readily available to those living in cars. They need to pay 25 percent of their income, not 65 percent to private landlords, and they most definitely shouldn't be paying $1200 a night for the pleasure of living in one room in a motel… it's like having these kids in a prison room."

Compounding the problem is that Housing New Zealand says much of its stock is uninhabitable. There are currently 463 state houses empty because they're allegedly contaminated with methamphetamine, and another 730 in need of repairs.

Mr Evans says most homeowners know you can live in a house while repairs are carried out, and those 730 homes should be filled immediately as it beats living in a car.

"None of us believe that any child should be hungry, none of us believe that kids should be in cars. You can't blame, you've got to find some sustainable solutions, work with the vulnerable families from a much younger age and see them through, making sure that there is affordable housing."

And without a major correction in the red-hot Auckland property market, that means building more state houses.

"The cost of renting a property in this country is [up] 25 percent in the last 12 months. The average family are paying around $680 a week for a three-bedroom house. If you're on minimum wage or unemployed, it's simply not sustainable."


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