The Post

Housing waitlist hits 11,655

- Henry Cooke

More than 11,600 eligible households are on the waitlist for public housing, the highest number in at least a decade.

The figures, proactivel­y released by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Developmen­t, show 11,655 eligible households were on the housing register awaiting placement in a public house at the end of May.

This is the largest amount of families waiting in at least a decade, but not the absolute record of 12,195 reached in 2004 under very different settings.

The waitlist has more than doubled during the past two years, with some of the fastest growth taking place last year. The May numbers were the most recent figures available publicly.

The Government has argued that the waitlist shows many ‘‘hidden homeless’’ who didn’t come forward for help under the National government.

For its part, National has blamed the rise on Labour’s rhetoric and regulation around landlords, which it says is seeing them exit the market and drive rents up. Of 11,655 households, the vast majority (9623) were ‘‘Priority A’’ or in the most need.

The increase comes even as the Government added 1780 new public housing places during the past year, and is now building nine-times more state and social homes than were being built in 2016.

It seems that supply growth is simply not keeping up with demand: 1974 applicants added themselves to the waitlist in May, but just 589 were housed over the same period. The median time to get someone on the waitlist is dropping, however, from 126 days in April to 120 in May.

Auckland had the most households on the register, with 4608 households in May – up 122 on the month before. Every region other than Northland, Canterbury and the central North Island saw a rise in the number of applicants.

Close to 3000 (2974) individual clients received a grant to stay in a motel during May, over twice the number in May of last year. The number of transition­al housing places increased to 2782, up from 2236 last year.

New associate housing minister for public housing Kris Faafoi has been asked for comment.

Former Housing Minister Phil Twyford said in May that demand was likely to pick up over winter.

‘‘Housing need often rises as we get into the colder months when substandar­d housing begins to harm the health of children. We have more help available for these families,’’ Twyford said.

National housing spokeswoma­n Judith Collins has repeatedly criticised Twyford for the waitlist growth, saying his policies are to blame.

‘‘More people are leaving the rental market as landlords and just saying ‘I can’t be bothered, it’s too hard,’ ’’ Collins said earlier this year.

‘‘[Landlords] are being attacked by the threat of capital gains, the bright line test being increased to five years, all sorts of attacks on them especially by the minister – when so many of those landlords are just mum and dad buyers who are coming up to retirement or exiting retirement they are saying it is too hard and are exiting the market.’’

Rents have risen under this Government, particular­ly in Wellington, but also rose steadily under National as the housing shortage ramped up.

MBIE bond data shows average rents across the country rose $21 to $471 in the year to May 2019. The year before that rents rose $19, the year before that $17, and the year before that $23.

 ?? ROSS GIBLIN/STUFF ?? More than 11,500 eligible households are now waiting for public housing.
ROSS GIBLIN/STUFF More than 11,500 eligible households are now waiting for public housing.
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