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Plight of Auckland man with cerebral palsy highlights crisis point for disabled community over access to housing

The disabled community is at a crisis point when it comes to housing, according to advocates who are getting an increasing number of calls from people lacking suitable homes.

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Hundreds gathered in South Auckland today to call on the Government to take action on the issue. Source: 1 NEWS

Hundreds gathered in South Auckland today to call on the Government to take action on the issue, with the group Disability Connect taking lead.

Chairwoman Colleen Brown says they deal with families who "don’t understand how to go about finding information, there is no system there that families can access".

Chief Executive Mike Potter estimates there are 40,000 people in New Zealand who need accessible housing with many waiting for social housing through Kainga Ora, while others are living in private rentals.

Jordon Milroy, who has cerebral palsy has been living in a new rental in Takanini and says finding an accessible home has been an impossible task.

“Even though it’s a brand new house, it's upstairs and the stairs are quite steep and there's only one hand rail so if I'm tired it's really difficult for me”, he told 1 NEWS.

He says the design of the bathroom and kitchen in his rental which has not been made with the disability community in mind, proves challenging for him. 

“The bathroom is a bit of an issue, so when I'm tired I tend to fall over there a lot more, and because the bathroom is all tiled, and got a glass door, if I'm not careful I might fall into that door.”

Mr Milroy says his previous accommodation wasn’t any better.

“I was living in a shoe box apartment in the city where the hallway was so narrow, I couldn’t fit my wheelchair down the hallway so I marked all the walls, and the shower was unsuitable, it had a big step to get into it”, he said.

The Cerebral Palsy Society has people approaching its staff daily with accessible housing issues according to Jordan Milroy. 

At the community hui in Otahuhu today, questions were raised about why all houses can’t be made to accessible standards.

Minister Salesa and Sepuloni, along with other officials, were there to listen, and answer questions.

Housing Minister Kris Faafoi has told 1 NEWS, the Government’s 'aware those with disabilities or accessibility issues are crying out for more.'

Of the 65,000 homes Kāinga Ora owns or manages, nearly 8000 have undergone work or modifications making them more accessible.

The Department has also committed to making at least 15 per cent of its new builds accessible.

“So making sure simple things like width of corridors, width of doors”, Minister Faafoi said.

Disability Connect says that number of homes still won’t be enough to support the community and are challenging the Government to set a deadline for when all its state homes will meet accessibility standards.

The Department admits it doesn't have clear data around how many accessible homes are currently available, or just how many people are in need.

Minister Faafoi says he understands: “At the end of the last year it was just short of 900 who identified themselves as needing an accessible home”.

Six hundred of these people are on the waiting list, with around 300 others wanting to move out of their current state housing.

Mr Potter says: “People are on very long waiting lists and we know that, they’re on the general waiting list and yet they’ve been there for as long as six years.”

People are desperate for change, according to Mr Milroy.

“People are desperate to be in accessible housing, to be able to call a house their home. To feel safe, to feel comfortable, it's a basic human right”, he said.