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Housing crisis for Hutt domestic violence victims

RNZ report by Ellen O’Dwyer
Hutt City Women’s Refuge says their safe house is at crisis point trying to find long-term accommodation for women in the community.

Refuge manager Philippa Wells said a shortage of cheap, affordable rental properties in the Hutt region meant some women and their families were waiting three to six months to find a place to live after they had been in the refuge.

In the 15 months Ms Wells has worked at the refuge, she said she had seen a noticeable difference in housing availability.

“A lot of it is that the rental price is just set too high and so it leaves their only choice as Housing New Zealand.

“Of course there’s a lot of demand on Housing New Zealand, they can’t suddenly create a house where there is no house,” Ms Wells said.

Much of the affordable housing available was unlivable, she said.

“Where there is cheap housing available, some of it is really not up to standard. There are places out there where I wouldn’t house my dog, and it’s really sad when a woman has to take something like that. But being honest, even getting one of those is really hard work.”

Ms Wells said there was a reluctance from some landlords to take on a tenant who came from the refuge.

“We’ve literally seen it where things have been going along, it looks like they’re going to get the house and then the moment they get a reference and they see the word ‘refuge’, straight away it’s like ‘no, we’ll give it to somebody else’,” she said.

Women’s Refuge chief executive Ang Jury said the difficulty finding long-term accommodation was experienced by other women’s refuges around the country.

“It’s pretty much a universal problem. Everyone is experiencing the same sorts of issues.

“We need more social housing, we need more state houses, and we need good, warm, safe, dry state houses. We need more supply into the market, either that or we need to come up with some way, working with government, to make private rentals accessible and affordable to those women – and that might be a harder ask, I suspect.”

Dr Jury said safe houses were busy in nature and staying in one long-term could add stress when women were trying to put their life back together. Ms Wells agreed.

“The struggle to find safe housing can be a contributing factor for a woman who chooses to go back into that unsafe environment because she just runs out of hope. ‘I’m never going to find a house I’ll just go back’, and that is very very sad in putting her back in danger,” she said.

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