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Community opposes temporary homeless accomodation: 'Make the housing permanent'

The Wainuiomata community has come together in opposition to a transitional housing development that would offer temporary housing to homeless families.

The Wainuiomata community wants permanent accommodation for homeless families at the Wood Street development Source: rnz.co.nz

By Ben Strang of rnz.co.nz

Not because the community doesn't want the homeless to be housed at the proposed Wood Street development - but because they think they should be able to live there permanently.

Officials from the agencies involved - Kainga Ora, the Ministry of Social Development, and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development - said there would be 35 homes built housing a maximum of 180 people.

Kainga Ora's Andrew Booker estimates the new development would generally house about 130 people, and that is a number Wood Street residents are fairly comfortable with.

But they do not want 130 new, fresh faces, populating the quiet street every 12 weeks.

They would prefer more permanent neighbours.

Sam Mason, speaking on behalf of residents, told officials: "Do it right, do it once, make the housing permanent, listen to what the people want."

In response, Jonathan Fraser from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development said the decision to build transitional housing, rather than permanent housing, was due to demand.

That caused particular concern for Moewaka Coffey, who has recently moved back to Wainuiomata to raise his family.

"That statement contradicts the commitment Kainga Ora made around housing Wainuiomata families first," he said.

"Because there's no people living in emergency in the local, one motel that we have here.

"So what you're now telling us is that you're now bring people into Wainui from outside the community, which could put them into further hardship away from their support networks."

Despite several calls to make the housing more permanent, and pleas from residents for the land to be purchased, rather than leased from the Ministry of Education, there were no commitments from the agencies.

Even parliament's speaker of the house, Labour MP and staunch Wainuiomata man Trevor Mallard, wanted some sort of commitment to provide more permanent housing.

"I want to follow up and ask if you people are prepared to move in your shape of transitional arrangements, so if a family is fitting in well, their kids are at school and things are going along for them in a way that they haven't previously, is there a possibility or can you shift to them being able to stay there."

Mallard backed National MP Chris Bishop, who said the community wants permanent housing as well as the ability to take some people for a temporary stay.

The community is particularly frustrated over a lack of consultation for the development.

It came as a shock last year when Kainga Ora announced plans for the site, without having talked to the local residents.

Booker admitted they'd made a mistake, and said the community had made their thoughts on the transitional housing loud and clear.

Booker said the agencies will meet with ministers in the next fortnight, and he promised to return to consult with residents again within the next month.