NZ’s housing issue ‘worst in world’
New research indicates New Zealand has some of the worst rates of homelessness in the developed world.
At the last census in 2013 there were roughly 41,700 Kiwis who were ‘‘severely housing deprived’’ – about 1 per cent of the population.
Using data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a Yale study has compared the statistics to those from other developed nations, which put New Zealand on top of the list on a per-capita basis – although the research notes significant comparability issues thanks to the differing ways each country measures homelessness.
Labour’s housing spokesman Phil Twyford says this research shows we have ‘‘the worst level of homelessness in the world’’.
He also believes the number will have gone far higher in the last four years.
‘‘We know that the housing market is much tougher now. There is an acute housing shortage, Housing New Zealand’s waiting list has blown out, and anecdotally people like the Salvation Army are saying they have never seen homelessness this bad,’’ Twyford said.
Figures released on Thursday showed the Government spent a record $12.6 million in the last three months paying for shortterm seven-day motel stays for those in desperate need, up from $8.8m in the first three months of the year.
And Housing New Zealand numbers out yesterday showed 5353 suitable applicants on a waitlist for social housing, up from 3877 at the same time last year. Almost 3700 of those were top priority and considered ‘‘at risk’’.
Almost half of those on the list are Maori and another 2400 applicants had children.
Both the Greens and Labour argue that instead of spending money on motel stays the Government should prioritise building more state houses.
Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett, who was social housing minister until late-2016, said yesterday that ‘‘in hindsight’’ the Government could have acted earlier on emergency housing.
‘‘We had no idea it would ever be this big. No Government had ever picked up the bill for this. No Government has ever funded emergency housing,’’ Bennett said.
Social Housing Minister Amy Adams said the Government had stepped up the response to the rising need.
‘‘Winter is seeing an increase in the number of people needing support. Our primary focus is getting help to those who need it,’’ Adams said.
The OECD data that showed New Zealand as the worst country for homelessness has comparability issues. Different studies treat homelessness differently.
The ‘‘1 per cent’’ figure for New Zealand includes those who are living in temporary arrangements such as a severely crowded friend’s house or a boarding house.
Just 4197 – or 0.1 per cent of the population – were literally sleeping in the streets or in their cars when the 2013 census was taken.
Yet New Zealand is not alone in using this wider definition of homelessness: Australia, Germany, and many other OECD nations also look at more than just those sleeping rough.