Mount Maunganui beachfront motel being used for emergency housing

A solo mum in emergency housing at a Mount Maunganui motel offering panoramic ocean views says it’s a “blessing” — but some people judge her because of who she is and where she is living.

Chanel Waho and her two children are one of seven emergency housing households living in the Aqua Beachfront Motel on Marine Parade.

Waho has been in emergency housing for the past two years, leaving her job and moving from Whanganui to Tauranga about three months ago “for a better life” for her and her kids.

She told the Bay of Plenty Times she sometimes felt judged by people who walked past and saw her at the motel.

“They look us up and down, you can tell the energy of a lot of people, and you can tell who is judgmental and who is not worried. They’ll look at the house and then look at you like – ‘how does she afford that?'”

People did not understand what some of the emergency housing residents living at the motel had been through – “we’ve come from the gutter, from broken homes”.

”It’s sad because there’s a lot of us that are willing to do anything and go the extra mile, especially us single parents. Or just parents in general.

“Someone could be going through a lot of s***, or come from a violent place, and they want to do better. Why don’t they deserve to live a nice life or be around nice things?”

The motel owners, a senior couple, were “the nicest people I’ve ever met”.

”They actually care about us, which is something new because a lot of the other [motels] just do it for money.”

One of the owners of Aqua Beachfront Motel said just because ”it’s a supreme location, doesn’t mean that it’s too good for MSD people” and he believed people should have an opportunity in life to try and better themselves.

The motel’s website says it is ”on the beachfront just a few metres from the picturesque shoreline of the famous and popular Mount Maunganui Beach”.

Before the pandemic, he said, one of their units was occasionally used for emergency housing, however, the motel predominantly became used for emergency housing during the lockdown.

One unit was still used for other guests and there had been no issues, he said.

People had not passed on comments about them using their motel for emergency housing and had not noticed any hostility from locals, he said.

“People have to be housed somewhere. The Government can’t house them all at a certain time.”

“You’ve got to treat every guest with the greatest respect. Just because they may be MSD people, you treat them as if they’re a normal guest booking wherever they come from in the world.”

“It doesn’t matter what location the emergency housing is in, as long as they’re getting good value for their money, and I think we’re probably cheaper than most of them in town.”

The couple had owned the motel for 20 years. He would not reveal how much they were charging.

The property is listed for sale by negotiation and has nine bedrooms, seven lounges, and eight bathrooms.

When asked if the motel was on the market the co-owner said: “It is and it isn’t”.

He would not say how long the property has been on the market and declined to confirm how many rooms the motel had.

The Ministry of Social Development confirmed it had people from seven emergency housing households living at the address.

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, which can lease properties for emergency housing, refused to confirm if it was leasing the motel or had interests in buying it citing privacy reasons.

OneRoof editor Owen Vaughan said a nearby luxury home on Marine Parade sold last month for $9.52m

Meanwhile, Waho said now her children, aged 2 and 4, went to daycare in the area and were the most settled they had ever been.

The family has been in emergency housing in several cities including Hamilton, Whanganui and Tokoroa.

A previous motel was “just nasty” and hearing fighting through the thin walls at all hours of the morning scared the children.

The young mum said she went to house viewings daily and has struggled to find work as a single mother with a criminal history.

For people willing to hire her, the hours didn’t work as they started early in the morning and she couldn’t leave her children.

She was also doing a beauty course to specialise in eyelash extensions as well as a personal development course.

Finding a house was more challenging, she said, despite the daily viewings.

“I think people are particular about which people they want in their house. They have a category that they want to fill their home which makes it harder for people in need. It’s a crisis for us.

“We just want a home.”

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