Covid 19 coronavirus: Auckland Vincent St apartments where community case lives is chaotic site with Govt housing clients, thefts and violence

The apartment block where Auckland’s new community Covid-19 case lives has more than 20 units rented by Ministry of Social Development clients and has been the site of numerous thefts and the assault of a police officer.

On Thursday Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced an AUT student in her 20s living at Vincent St Residences in Auckland CBD had tested positive for Covid-19 with no links to the border.

All residents at the new apartment block at 106 Vincent St – which only opened in June – have been asked to isolate and get a Covid-19 test. Most have returned negative results however one “weak positive” result was announced today.

However, it’s not the only thing the residents have had to contend with as they have been beset by recurring mail room thefts, raided personal lockers and multiple incidents including a fight in the lobby over the past few months.

Among the damage done to the property, the hand sanitiser dispenser outside the lifts had a hole punched in it and had been broken and empty for some time, a resident said.

Between June 1 and October 15, police responded to 15 individual events at the Vincent St Residences.

Vincent St Residences building manager Rajeev Chembath said in one incident, the building’s personal locker room was entirely cleaned out after a man with a crowbar broke into them all one night and loaded the contents into a vehicle.

He reported the incident to police, with CCTV footage.

“One tenant’s friend came in and broke all the locker room. So I contacted the agent and asked the tenant to pay for all that, then I repaired everything,” Chembath said.

“It’s happened multiple times, different dates, for two months every 15 days or something like that. The people are residents so they have the access to go everywhere.

“All the locker rooms have been robbed. This happened late at night, 11.30pm. Someone also peed in the locker room.”

What one resident at the Vincent St apartments called a “bloody street fight” also ended up with a 30-year-old man being charged with assaulting police.

At 9.20pm on October 13, police responded to a report of a bleeding and intoxicated man at the Vincent St apartments.

“On police arrival, another male was located nearby who was also intoxicated. This man was brought to the Auckland Custody Unit for detoxification,” police said.

“At one point he allegedly made a threat to officers. The man was held in custody and he was charged with wilful damage and assaults police.”

Chembath told the Herald on Sunday “more than 20 units” were rented by clients assisted by the Government, but that he had no direct contact with the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) and the rentals were all organised by real estate agents.

“But the agents will not tell me anything. Basically, the agents will come and show to them [the apartment], and everything they will handle from their office and they will hand over the key,” Chembath said.

However, MSD regional commissioner Mark Goldsmith said the apartment block is not used for emergency housing by them directly.

“Vincent Residences are not a supplier of emergency housing for our clients nor do we ‘rent’ apartments from them,” Goldsmith said.

“We provide help to people with financial assistance, such as the accommodation supplement, in order for them to access long-term accommodation.Where someone stays is ultimately their choice.

“If MSD clients are staying in this building, it will be because they have chosen to live there and have obtained a tenancy agreement with a landlord directly or a property management company.”

However, one resident disputed this and said among the building’s other residents “it’s common knowledge that there are emergency housing clients here”.

The resident, who asked not to be named, said the clients seemed to all be on one level of the building.

Another resident who leased a $450-per-week unit at the apartment block said people were completely unprepared for the chaotic environment they had unwittingly moved into.

“You’ve got all these people who have gone and bought these apartments, anywhere from $500,000 upwards,” the Vincent St resident said.

“They’re in there two, three weeks and because some of the landlords can’t get tenants they hand them over to MSD. And you’re suddenly living in quite different accommodation to what you purchased into.

“But the problems obviously don’t stop there.”

The resident said there were often cars with broken windows parked outside on the footpath.

“Then you go down to the storage lockers and in any given day they will wipe out 100 storage lockers and empty them entirely into a car and drive off.

“At the moment the damage has been confined to the mail room, so they’ve just crow-barred open every letter box.

“The next thing I think people are concerned about – I certainly am – is when do they start moving to the apartments? Just bowling doors down?”

The resident said a deep clean of the building was being done after the first Covid-19 positive case was discovered.

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