Homelessness on the rise in Lower Hutt attributed to lack of affordable housing

Homelessness is on the rise in Lower Hutt with historically affordable housing areas now cutting many people out of the rental market.

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It’s prompted Hutt City Council to investigate the issue. Source: 1 NEWS

One Lower Hutt woman, who fled an abusive relationship by moving to the area, said she’s felt stigma due to her situation when applying for rentals and also found prices too steep.

“It has been really hard, just because of the affordability of the houses around the Lower Hutt, they’re just not realistic for me as a single mum,” she said.

She’s currently living in temporary accommodation with her two children in the same bedroom as her.

"It's something that’s constantly on your mind so you can never be relaxed with the situation, day to day it could change,” she said.

She doesn’t want to have to move out of the area and uproot her family again with her children finally settling into their new school.

“In terms of affordability, Housing NZ is only option for me at the moment.

“I've been on that housing list for six months now,” she said.

The woman said it’s up to the community to help increase temporary accommodation options.

Lower Hutt Women’s Refuge manager Philippa Wells said the organisation has seen an increase in homeless people calling for help, who they cannot accept, with services for women who have suffered violence.

Ms Wells said the organisation is trying to cut deals with hotels to keep up with the increase in demand for beds.

“I can speak for the volunteers on the crisis line that when they’re told on the shift they're on, that there’s no space, they feel anxious.”

Women are also requiring help for longer.

“There's a lot of competition, there’s stigma against single women and if the woman has come in with a bad credit rating cause of what the abuser has made her to do, that is a huge barrier when she can actually be quite committed and responsible with her finances,” Ms Well said.

Ms Well has put a call out to landlords that can help the refuge to get in touch.

“We're appealing to the hearts of people because if some landlords would be willing to offer their places at a lower prices that would make it affordable,” she said.

The Hutt City Council has also acknowledged the area’s homeless issue, creating a homeless strategy to increase support for people facing housing instability.

Hutt City Council principal policy advisor John Pritchard said more people are needed emergency housing grants, and staying in motels for longer.

“In the last quarter, there were 600 grants given to people in the city, as compared to 348 in the same quarter last year,” he said.

The waiting list for social housing in Lower Hutt has increased by 85% in the last year to June.
Housing New Zealand is planning to build 270 social houses in Lower Hutt in the next three years, but Mr Pritchard says that alone doesn’t fix the issue.

“This is about the immediate situation that people are enduring in Lower Hutt,” he said.

The council will have a proposal outlining how it plans to address the issue, and the cost, by next March.