Nelson solo mum Marie Hill, 23, and her sons Ashton, 18 months, and Braxton, five months, have found respite at Ma’s Place, but are desperate for a place of their own to call home. Photo: Kate Russell

‘Give us a chance’


Marie Hill’s little boys have never known what home is.

Every day she scours the Trade Me property listings, in hope of finding a place to live.
The 23-year-old solo mum of two has been looking for a rental property for a year, but has faced constant rejection.

For now, Marie and her children, 18-month-old Ashton and five-month-old Braxton, are living at Ma’s Place in Richmond.

The emergency accommodation provider has been a stable roof over their heads on and off for the past year, but Marie desperately wants a place to call their own – for the sake of her children.

“My toddler doesn’t know what home is – we are always moving.”

Marie says she is restricted to applying for private rentals, as real estate companies “turn her away instantly”.

“Because I’m a solo mum on a benefit. They also want references, but I’m only 23 and don’t have any. It’s a battle.”

The lack of listings and price hikes are also a problem. Marie is prepared to pay up to $400 a week in rent in Nelson, Richmond or Motueka. But there have only been around 15 private rentals in her price range since she’s been looking.

“As soon as they come up, I apply but they all get snatched up so quickly and the rents are getting higher all the time. It’s a fighting battle as a solo parent; I’m always thinking ‘can I afford it?’

“Some days I think ‘why do I bother? Do I try again and go through that again?”

The Trade Me Rental Index shows that Nelson was the only region in the country to hit a record high in June – $400 a week, up more than 8 per cent on the previous year. This is one of the highest increases in the country and means tenants will be set to pay an extra $1500 more in rent each year.

Since Carol Marshall and her husband Paul opened Ma’s Place last February they have had 12 parents and 15 children through their home, with families coming to them every week with nowhere to go.

“There certainly is a housing crisis here in Nelson, and we deal with it at the coal face here, and know that it’s not just hype,” says Carol.

“Finding a rental is hard for anyone right now, even if they fit all the criteria. This means that young families renting for the first time have a very slim chance of renting a warm, suitable home and starting out on the right foot.”

Carol says that even Franklin Village has a waiting list for families now, with some living motels, or resorting to live with other families in cramped quarters.

“This shortage is affecting the most vulnerable in our communities, and its long-term effects are very concerning.”

Meanwhile, Marie will keep trying, in hope that one day someone will give her and her boys a chance at securing a home.

“It feel like its try after try – but hopefully one day someone will say, ‘we’ll give that person a chance’.”