10 Dec 2014

Shifting home no good for kids

8:28 am on 10 December 2014

A community housing group is calling for incentives for tenants to stay put for longer, after a study of nearly 7000 children under two showed nearly 50 per cent had moved house at least once in their young lives.

Moving home is one of the major causes of stress.

Moving home is one of the major causes of stress. Photo: Cornelia Schauermann / Cultura Creative

The latest report from longevity study Growing Up New Zealand also found almost one in four children under two had moved twice or more, and a tiny number had moved eight times in their first two years.

The exact figures were 45.3 percent of children moving at least once, and 38 percent moving twice or more times.

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The trust executive of Monte Cecilia Housing Trust, David Zussman, was not surprised by the figures, saying he saw plenty of families moving a lot from and to private rentals, state houses and garages.

He said families moved because of the cost of housing, insecure employment and the use of short-term tenancies by landlords.

Mr Zussman said there was a high cost for families moving house, often losing money because of bond, moving costs or reconnection of services.

He said there needed to be better protection through tenancy regulation and initiatives to encourage long-term tenancy.

"There is a lot of opportunity to provide a more stable level of housing, but also to give it the importance that it deserves," Mr Zussman said.

"I think there is a lot of focus on home ownership and there is nothing wrong with that, but what's overlooked is that increasingly the private rental sector is the realistic option for more and more families."

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Home ownership has been declining in New Zealand in recent years. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Relocation a prime cause of stress

The chief executive of the Great Potential Foundation, Dame Lesley Max, said moving house could be extremely stressful, and children needed stability and familiarity in their lives.

"Social scientists assess life events which cause stress - relocation is one of the prime ones, and for that stress to be experienced not once, or twice but maybe three, four, five, six times in a child's life is very damaging because it's stress on the whole family."

Karen Billings, operations manager for Bernardos children and family services for the lower North island, said high mobility could leave children vulnerable.

"The move can really impact on the social connections of the family, and things like their access and their knowledge of health services or registering with a GP, so children can be made more vulerable when they lose that visability."

Dr Atatoa Carr said the next step of the study would look into why families are moving and the impact it has on them.

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