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Gary sitting in a wheelchair with an amputated leg

Housing Crisis unfairly affects disabled

When you are disabled, the choice of where to live is massively constrained. And even more so when you have to move to Auckland to get the medical care you need. Gary James, a ceiling installer of 35 years, knows this all too well. A man who previously spent his life running up and down ladders, Gary’s diabetes left him with an amputated leg and ongoing vascular issues in his remaining leg. 

Currently living in Ruawai Northland, Gary needs to move to Auckland to be closer to Auckland Hospital’s Vascular unit and the support of friends and family who live and work in West Auckland and the North Shore. However, the family home in Ruawai – which was left to his brother and Gary after their mother's death – has tipped Gary on the wrong side of the Government’s asset testing criteria for accommodation and support worker assistance. Unfortunately, selling the house in Northland won’t provide the necessary capital to purchase in Auckland, meaning Gary is now struggling to find suitable rental accommodation. 

Gary and his partner Nicola - who works on the North Shore - have tried every avenue available to secure suitable accommodation. Wheelchair accessible rental accommodation is near impossible to find. Gary says it is frustrating when he applies ‘wheelchair accessibility’ to the search criteria on rental websites and get the message “no suitable match”.  

Gary believes if professional landlords and developers made even just a small portion of their rental portfolio wheelchair accessible, they would be rewarded handsomely. “Wheelchair bound tenants are  great tenants to have. We are grateful to landlords who support us remaining independent, we are not known for raucous parties and because we are often home during the day, we become a form of neighbourhood watch” he says. 

And Gary doesn’t ask for much – just a 2-bedroom flat on the North Shore or West Auckland that has a wheelchair accessible shower, and easy access from outside. A friend can build a ramp if required – just as he did at Gary’s current home. Gary uses a Go-Chair lightweight electric wheelchair, which means he can fit in tight spaces and easily access standard height benchtops. His budget is a max of $500 a week for the right place. 

If you know of an accessible 2-bedroom long term rental for Gary or another disabled person, please contact Independent Living on 0800 625 100 or   

Independent Living is a Charitable trust supporting the independence of disabled and elderly people with free advice and a wide range of mobility products to purchase or rent. 

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