Families in transitional housing are struggling to move into private rentals because landlords are unwilling to risk renting homes to them, a rental agency says.

Two hundred and sixty-six people are now on the Tauranga social housing waiting list, and families already in transitional housing are having to apply to stay longer as the rental market tightens.

Tauranga Rentals owner Dan Lusby said landlords were unwilling to take a risk with people who might have bad credit ratings when there were applicants with good references, incomes and credit ratings.

The average price of a house was now $700,000 and ”if you have no guarantee that someone was going to pay the rent and look after the place there is no way we are going to put them in”.

”No owner is going to take that much of a risk.”

The Ministry of Social Development has contracts with four city providers for transitional housing and wrap-around services to 464 households each year.

Kāinga Atawhai on Opal Drive, which has eight two-bedroom and 10 three-bedroom homes, opened last year. It is managed by Tauranga Community Housing Trust.

One of the first residents in the Käinga Atawhai on Opal Drive was Pohutukawa Kahuroa. Photo/File
One of the first residents in the Käinga Atawhai on Opal Drive was Pohutukawa Kahuroa. Photo/File

Ministry of Social Development figures show 35 adults and 67 children have lived in the village, but only eight of those households have moved into permanent private housing. Most tenants were previously staying in emergency motel accommodation.

Deputy chief executive of housing Scott Gallacher said most of those who had moved had gone into rentals.

Tauranga Community Housing Trust general manager Jacqui Ferrel said the trust was pleased 23 per cent of its transitional tenant families had moved into private housing.

But some tenants were not able to make the transition because of poor health, low income, debt and a bad tenancy history.

”In these cases, some tenants have secured public housing through the housing register.”

Tauranga Salvation Army Community Ministries manager Davina Plummer said the organisation had 16 transitional housing properties.

She said many tenants had needed to apply for an extension because of how tough it was to find housing.

John Gibson, community projects manager for Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services Trust, said there was a stigma around transitional housing tenants.

Their clients were not even getting a look in the door when applying for private rentals, he said, and some were making 30-plus applications a week.

Tauranga Moana Nightshelter manager Annamarie Angus said it was “extremely difficult” to place their tenants in the private or social housing markets, however, the nightshelter provided an opportunity to “better present our men to any possible landlord.”

The shelter had 20 transitional placements and worked with single men with high and complex needs including significant debt and “appalling” tenancy histories.

Accessible Properties chief executive Greg Orchard said the organisation aimed to add 150 more homes to its Tauranga portfolio. It currently owns 1142 homes for families from the Ministry of Social Development social housing register in the Tauranga area.

Housing Minister Phil Twyford said too many Tauranga families were suffering because of the national housing crisis, which he said was partly caused by the previous government’s failure to build more state houses.

”Increasing the amount of public housing is the best way we can get people out of transitional housing and into secure, permanent homes.”

The Government was committed to building 6400 new state houses and would soon announce how many of those would be built in Tauranga.

Working but family can’t find house to rent

Every week Eileen Uerata fills out at least 15 online applications to rent a house.

And each week they are rejected.

Her partner, Heemi Tarei, is a kiwifruit coolstore manager and four of their five children go to school.

With every day that passes, the family crosses off another day living in emergency housing. They have been crossing off days since May last year and Uerata says on some days she feels “trapped”.

On the day the Bay of Plenty Times visits, she is on the couch breastfeeding her youngest son, Arlee, who suffers from severe eczema.

She is grateful to Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services Trust, which has provided accommodation for the family – in three different transitional houses over the past 14 months.

The trust has been ”awesome” but the situation was ”disheartening”.

The family was made homeless when the landlord’s circumstances changed after renting the same property for more than six years.

Uerata says the family is on Ministry for Social Development’s waiting list ”and only slipped in due to my partner’s wage”.

But the couple were being proactive on the private rental front with no success.

”You get emails saying no it’s rented or you don’t get callbacks at all and they don’t tell you why you didn’t get it. That is what sucks, they don’t give you a reason.”

The family almost got a private rental twice but missed out, and Uerata believes it was because they had five children.

Ministry of Social Development Bay of Plenty regional commissioner Mike Bryant said Eileen and Heemi were one of more than 230 public housing applicants in Tauranga.

There were other families who meet the criteria for a higher ranking than Eileen and Heemi’s whanau.

”We’re continuing to work with the family to help them find the option that best suits. We do empathise with their situation and know the problem of housing demand exceeding supply applies right across the country, including Tauranga.”

”Eileen and Heemi’s transitional housing provider Te Tuinga Whanau Support Trust – who are fantastic and provide wrap around support, linking the family with community services and more. They tell us Eileen and Heemi are great tenants.”

Tauranga Transitional Housing numbers or places
. Tauranga Community Housing Trust – 38 – $1,555,166 funding
. Tauranga Moana Night Shelter – 20 – $1,495,007 funding
. Te Tuinga Whanau – 41 – $1,931,771 funding
. The Salvation Army – 17 – $2,159,126 funding
– Source MSD



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