All up, 72 people have been able to move into new rentals built by non-profit group CORT Community Housing in time for the festive season.
John Devine in his new home
John Devine was left homeless earlier this year when a good friend he was renting with in South Auckland suddenly developed lung cancer and passed away within weeks.
Unable to afford the rent on his own, Devine – who battles chronic depression and a bad neck injury – landed on the Government’s emergency housing waiting list.
He then spent months waiting in a boarding house, which helped him make new friends but also proved unsettling at times as other boarders battled mental illnesses – including one man who “howled at night”.
When he finally moved into a one-bedroom unit in Papakura’s McClennan development that was within walking distance of his brother’s family, Devine said he felt a huge relief and sense of security.
“It’s all about family and with Christmas around the corner … to be back down in Papakura in South Auckland is an absolute godsend for me,” he said.
Yet Devine’s story is not unique. Currently, there are almost 6000 people on Auckland’s public housing waiting list, hoping to either move into a home or be transferred to a new property.
CORT chief executive Peter Jeffries said his team looked after tenants living in about 300 public houses – 200 of which CORT itself owned.
That number is set to grow with the group building a further 120 public houses as part of existing funding agreements it has with the Government.
Having operated for more than 30 years, Jeffries said the group gives state housing tenants security because it holds onto its properties for decades. It also helps connect tenants with a range of support services.
And like all public housing tenants, those living in CORT houses get access to cheaper Government subsidised rents.
Jeffries said that – when choosing tenants for the 14 one-and two-bedroom units it built in the McClennan development – CORT selected those in most need, who had been living in emergency or transitional housing.
In addition to Devine, this included mum-of-two Carla Tauvale, who had been in a boarding house since March.
During that time she had been forced to live apart from her children, who were not allowed to visit her on the boarding house grounds.
After months seeing her children only at their school or on weekend excursions, she was finally able to spend time at home with them again from the day she was given the keys to her CORT home.
“It was such a blessing, I was almost in tears,” she said of that first night with them.
It’s given her hope of soon sharing custody of them with their father.
However, in the meantime she can’t wait for Christmas Day when her mum will come over and her children will play in the communal backyard with other kids living in the 14 McClennan units.
Devine is also looking forward to Christmas now and getting set to go buy a Christmas tree to brighten up his new unit.
“I do need to be a bit decorative this year because I do have something to celebrate,” he said.