For the majority of her young children’s lives, finding somewhere to live was a constant stress for mum Jahreece Hedley.
The Hedleys were living in a small three-bedroom flat in Richmond when one of her kids contracted MRSA, a highly contagious bacterial infection.
She had been searching for a bigger house for her family, but having filed for bankruptcy after a relationship breakdown years earlier, it was “near impossible” to find a rental.
“We needed to move out of that house because it was too small but I just kept getting declined because of my bad credit and the large size of our family.”
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Before finding the Richmond rental, they had moved four times in as many years due to landlords wanting to sell up.
A social worker from Whakatū Marae suggested Hedley undergo an assessment with Housing New Zealand (now Kāinga Ora).
Because they had a house when others didn’t have anywhere to live, they weren’t deemed a high priority.
But living in a crowded house began to take a toll and the MRSA infection spread through the whole family.
“We were having treatment after treatment but [the MRSA] kept coming back because we were living together so closely.”
Their situation became more urgent, and they were referred to the Nelson Tasman Housing Trust.
After an interview, Hedley was told an eight-bedroom house owned by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) had become available. It had previously been a Child Youth and Family residence for at risk youth but had been empty for eight years before the Hedleys moved in during 2016.
“It was perfect for us, it was a major blessing, we were really grateful and we looked after it really well.”
The family lived there for three years until MSD notified them it planned to use the facility for its original purpose, to house youth, and gave them a year’s notice.
Hedley said despite the long notice period, it was back to square one and she struggled once again to find a suitable home for her large family. The stress and anxiety kicked in as rental application after rental application was declined.
“For a whole year we looked and got nowhere.
“It gets really stressful and tiring and frustrating. Sometimes I gave up but then I would just keep chugging through because I knew our babies deserved better.”
She said the process of trying to find a home could “really mess with your mental health”.
Two months before they were due to move out, Nelson Tasman Housing Trust called. A four-bedroom house had become available and was offered to the family.
Hedley said when she hung up the phone, she cried.
“It was an emotional journey, we are really grateful for the Nelson Tasman Housing Trust.”
The family moved into their new home last September. It is one of 12 built by the housing trust in St Lawrence St during 2014 and 2015. All of the homes are double-glazed and have extra insulation, heat pumps and solar hot water.
Hedley said the community was close-knit, residents would share kai with each other if they had extra.
“The kids get along well, it is a really awesome community and diverse as well.”
The homes are rent-controlled, charged in one of two ways depending on the tenant’s circumstances.
Affordable rent is set at between 70 and 80 per cent of market rent, while the income related rent is set at 25 per cent of income for people on the Housing Register, as assessed by MSD.
Hedley pays income related rent, which means she can now save money, something that wasn’t possible before. She hopes to buy a home for her whānau in the future.
”We want to own our own home eventually, it is doable but it is going to take a while just to get on the ladder.
“Without the Nelson Tasman Housing Trust I don’t actually know where we would be…all we needed was a second chance.”
Hedley works at Whakatu Marae as an emergency housing navigator which had given her another perspective on the housing crisis in New Zealand.
She said a large amount of money was spent on housing people in motels and other places, when a percentage of that could be going to providers like the Nelson Tasman Housing Trust to create more permanent solutions.
”I know what they are going through and I know how hard it is and how stressful it can be.
“Whānau who face discrimination because of their past or low socio-economic status shouldn’t be rejected by rental agencies, but given a second chance to prove themselves.”
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