Daily bal­anc­ing act of hous­ing

From drug swab­bing to deal­ing with debt is­sues, be­ing a Hous­ing New Zealand ten­ancy manager is a real jug­gling act. Re­porter Lau­ren Pri­est­ley spent a day in Ta­maki with area manager John Walker to find out how his team keeps all of the balls in the air.

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS -

You can barely see the wall­pa­per of the first state house we en­ter.

There is tag­ging on al­most ev­ery wall, pane of glass and win­dowsill of the Tripoli Rd fam­ily home. Even the edges of the door frames are cov­ered with the graf­fiti.

A cou­ple of the win­dows are smashed in, there are gap­ing holes in the walls and a pile of clothes strewn across the dirty toi­let floor.

It’s not the worst Hous­ing New Zealand area manager John Walker has seen.

‘‘We have to look at it and think: ‘If we kicked th­ese peo­ple out, where would they go?’

‘‘We’re mak­ing progress. It’s go­ing to be slow progress and take months, not weeks, but it’s progress.

‘‘It’s look­ing 100 per cent bet­ter than it was.’’

Hous­ing New Zealand has been work­ing with the fam­ily to clean up the prop­erty over the past month.

The gar­den is now empty of the hun­dreds of beer bot­tles and spare tyres that were there the week be­fore.

A new pad­lock adorns the gate to pre­vent a group of rowdy friends tak­ing part in regular day­time drink­ing ses­sions and uri­nat­ing in the gar­den.

The fam­ily has bought new glass panes and is wait­ing for a friend to put them in the win­dows cheaply.

It is about help­ing them to tidy up the house by them­selves, Walker says.

‘‘The big part is to make peo­ple re­spon­si­ble for that be­hav­iour. As soon as you iden­tify is­sues around dam­age it has to be rec­ti­fied.’’

Most ten­ants only re­ceive an an­nual in­spec­tion un­less there is a red flag on their ten­ancy, Walker says.

One ten­ant we drop in to see dur­ing her an­nual in­spec­tion has perched a gas cooker on top of her elec­tric stove to save money.

An­other has a dog on the prop­erty with­out con­sent.

The third has lived there for 17 years and proudly shows us around her clean and tidy home.

Each of the 12 ten­ancy man­agers op­er­at­ing out of Walker’s of­fice have about 400 ten­ants to look af­ter.

It is a mixed bag, Walker says.

‘‘I love be­ing able to help the needy peo­ple.

‘‘It’s just like with any­thing. It’s the very small mi­nor­ity that takes the ma­jor­ity of your time.’’

Drug use is one of the is­sues that can be in­volved with the ‘‘mi­nor­ity’’, Walker says.

Hous­ing New Zealand is alerted if the po­lice have charged some­one with us­ing metham­phetamine at a state house. And the lat­est ten­ant in Glen Innes.

We ar­rive at the house just as staff from an ex­ter­nal com­pany are putting on white suits and masks to per­form an ini­tial drug swab.

The test looks for meth con­tam­i­na­tion and, if it comes back pos­i­tive, a more com­pre­hen­sive sur­vey of the house is un­der­taken.

There are sev­eral chil­dren cur­rently living at the prop­erty, Walker says.

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‘‘When we get that in­for­ma­tion we have an obli­ga­tion to make sure the house is safe. It can have long-term ef­fects on chil­dren and on adults.’’

The cost of fix­ing a state house af­fected by meth can range from $8000 to up­wards of $50,000 depend­ing on the sever­ity.

And that is on top of the $200 mil­lion Hous­ing New Zealand spends on gen­eral house re­pairs and main­te­nance an­nu­ally, Walker says.

One Dal­ton St house we visit has just been va­cated by a fam­ily who lived there for 20 years. It is their fi­nal ten­ancy in­spec­tion.

There are stains on the car­pet and peel­ing wall­pa­per but it has gen­er­ally been left in a clean con­di­tion.

Some­times houses are left with piles of rub­bish and be­long­ings, need­ing more time and money be­fore new ten­ants can move in, Walker says.

‘‘Un­for­tu­nately some of our ten­ants leave the place dis­gust­ing. Food, dirty nap­pies, ev­ery­thing just thrown about.

‘‘As long as they make an ef­fort to clean, it’s OK.’’

Hous­ing New Zealand ten­ancy man­agers check over the prop­erty and get con­trac­tors in for any work that needs do­ing.

A house on Tosca Lane has just been through that process and is look­ing spick and span. The adapted unit has been fit­ted out with new cur­tains and pol­ished linoleum floor­ing so it’s ready for a new in­hab­i­tant in com­ing weeks.

The only part of the day that doesn’t work out is vis­it­ing ten­ants who have got into debt.

One woman hasn’t paid rent for three weeks. It is time to have some tough con­ver­sa­tions.

But af­ter rap­ping on four ten­ants’ doors to no avail, the ten­ancy manager has to ad­mit we are out of luck.

His ten­ants are avoid­ing him, so he will make sure he is back the next day.

And so the jug­gling act con­tin­ues.

A Hous­ing New Zealand prop­erty on Tosca Lane that has been ren­o­vated ready for a new ten­ant to move in.

Hous­ing New Zealand area manager John Walker says his job is a mixed bag.

This Dal­ton St house might look tired, but the ten­ancy manager has seen much worse. He is pleased the out­go­ing ten­ants made the ef­fort to leave it clean and tidy.

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