Transitional Housing on the West Coast

Published on 21st of February, 2024

This summer there has been good news for at least one family on the West Coast, thanks to the generosity of the Greymouth Uniting Church. The parish has decided to lease its parsonage to CMM for use as transitional housing. The house has five bedrooms and a big yard, ideal for a family with growing children.

Far too many families on the Coast are living in insecure accommodation. Sometimes this involves squeezing into an overcrowded house with other family members, sometimes it means living in a caravan or a cabin at a camping ground, or being placed in a motel unit that is being used as emergency accommodation.

These places offer shelter, but they are by no means an adequate solution to the homelessness crisis on the Coast. Emergency accommodation, which is managed by the Ministry of Social Development, is only intended to be used for very short periods – just seven days. But with no transitional housing available on the Coast, families are spending many months living in emergency motels. The house leased to CMM by the Greymouth Uniting Parish will be the first transitional house where families can stay up to 12 weeks and in many cases, will stay longer.

The housing situation on the Coast is dire for the many families and individuals who are in urgent need of a place to live. Most of these people are long term Coasters who have found that their options are few: the rental market is small, the supply of public housing is low, and affordable housing is slow to come onto the market. Flood damage to existing housing stock over the last few years has further reduced the availability and habitability of homes.

CMM’s regional housing manager, Vanya Vitasovich explains that her biggest concern is the number of children living in emergency motels. “It’s so important to get children out of emergency housing and into more stable and permanent homes. In the holiday season, many families are asked to leave emergency motel accommodation to make room for holiday-makers. As a result, these families end up in camping grounds, making their situation even worse.” What’s needed is affordable, long term housing with security of tenure.

Kāinga Ora (the Government housing agency), is currently planning to build around sixty public housing units in Greymouth, but these probably won’t be completed until late 2024 at the earliest. While this will provide a welcome boost to housing in the area, it won’t be enough to cater for the number of families searching for a permanent home.
The partnership between CMM and the parish provides a welcome opportunity to make a difference by creating a pathway out of emergency accommodation for families and supporting them in their search for a permanent home.