29 Sep 2016

Motel tenant told to leave to make way for homeless

12:36 pm on 29 September 2016

A mother of three children was told to pack her things and vacate an Auckland motel room, after it was bought by Housing New Zealand to house the homeless.

Faith Davis was told to vacate an Auckland motel room after it was bought by Housing New Zealand.

Faith Davis was told to vacate an Auckland motel room after it was bought by Housing New Zealand. Photo: RNZ / Mohamed Hassan

Faith Davis had been living at the Cimarron Motel for just over a year, and was one of 11 long-term tenants staying there in an agreement with Work and Income.

Last month the government bought the motel to help ease demand for emergency housing. The tenants were told they had to move out once their leases expired.

Many found other places to live, but four, including Ms Davis, were still struggling.

"Every time I get a call back, they want a full family and not a single mum, or they want professional workers, or they want students that work," she said.

"It's quite annoying."

Ms Davis was also on a waiting list with Housing New Zealand, and had since been told she would soon have a home, but said her time in limbo had been traumatic.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said none of the tenants at the motel would be forced to leave.

"I was very clear with both MSD [Ministry of Social Development] and HNZ [Housing New Zealand] last week that current tenants were to be supported, and no one need leave until they had something permanent, and better suited to their needs long-term, than a motel unit."

But Ms Davis said she got a call yesterday from the property manager for Propertex, the owner of the motel, who told her she and her children were being evicted that day.

"I had a conversation with her and she told me to vacate the property before today, because she's coming to check all the units to see if they're clean.

"I asked her if I could stay on board for a bit longer, but she said Housing New Zealand has bought the property and they're putting the homeless people in here."

So she packed up and took her three children to Work and Income, who sent her to a motor lodge in Otara, with a $1300 cheque that would let her stay there for seven days.

She called her father, Max Davis, to help her move.

Mr Davis said once they turned up at the lodge, things began unravelling.

"WINZ had paid for four of them, and the manager says, 'No, there's only two kids and herself.'

"I was like, 'Hey, she's got a four-year-old, what's gonna happen to him?'"

But Mr Davis said the manager wouldn't budge, insisting that for safety reasons, the lodge could not house more than two children per room.

"So I said, 'Oh well, fair enough, I'll take him with me.'

"They came out with a key and took her to her room and, when they opened the door, it was so disgusting."

He said the new room was small and had no cooking facilities apart from a microwave.

Ms Davis said she was overwhelmed by how dirty the room was.

"It was real bad, it stunk, the floor was dirty, there was pubic hair all over the floor, even in the bathroom, the toilet sink... On the toilet, there's piss marks. It's horrible. It's very horrible."

She called her father back in tears and on his advice, took her children back to the Cimarron Motel. and waited, unsure of what would happen next.

RNZ spoke to Ms Davis at her old motel unit, and during the interview the property manager and the owner of the motel arrived.

A short while later, Ms Davis was told she could now stay.

"Apparently they said I signed the contract saying I could stay until January, and I told them no, that's wrong. I didn't get any contract like everyone else.

"I don't know why they changed it, I was really shocked."

She suspected the owners changed their minds once journalists turned up, she said.

The property manager for Propertex did not return RNZ's calls for comment.

Ms Davis' story ended with some good news: she later received an unexpected call from Housing New Zealand telling her she was finally off the waiting list and would soon have a home.

She had been offered a three-bedroom house in Papakura, in a safe area with enough space for her children to play in, she said.

She would move on 21 October, and Propertex had said she could stay at the motel until then.

"I was so happy!" she said.

Ministry of Social Development responds

In a statement, Ministry of Social Development spokesperson Kay Read said it had called Ms Davis to apologise for not providing her with adequate interim accommodation.

Ms Davis had been staying in the motel with three generations of her family, Ms Read said.

She had been assessed for social housing on 22 September, her extended family had been helped to move into a large property last week, and Ms Davis would be able to move into her own new rental on 21 October.

The ministry would contact the motor lodge over Ms Davis' report that its accommodation was substandard.

"This must have been very distressing for Ms Davis and we have called today to apologise for this; we have also checked in to see if she is getting all the support she needs.

"We'll be checking in with the motel to recover the payment we made and also to check its adequacy."

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs