The Press

Emergency housing costs skyrocket


"When people are living in cars and on the streets and in garden sheds – we just can't accept that, we can't allow that to happen." Green MP Jan Logie

Despite talk of the housing problem subsiding, the Government spent a record $12.6 million on emergency housing grants in the past three months.

The money went to 11,446 grants that each covered a sevenday motel stay for a family or individual in dire need.

Some people would have obtained the grant multiple times.

The numbers were released yesterday, a day after Auckland Council’s Homelessne­ss Policy Project estimated 24,000 people in Auckland did not have adequate housing.

The $12.6m is up from $8.8m spent in the first three months of 2017 for 9218 grants, and $7.7m in the last three months of 2016 for 8860 grants.

When the Government introduced the policy in 2016, it budgeted just $2m a year for the scheme, which rapidly became oversubscr­ibed.

In the same three-month period, the Government also spent $16.2m on accommodat­ion-related hardship assistance, up from $15m in the same quarter of 2016.

Labour’s Carmel Sepuloni said the numbers showed that New Zealanders were clearly no better off after nine years of a National government.

‘‘There is a continuing trend of people finding it harder to make ends meet – of hardship grants across the board, particular­ly in relation to accommodat­ion,’’ Sepuloni said.

‘‘I can’t imagine it getting any better in the next cycle.’’

The experience of using the short-term grants could be incredibly stressful.

‘‘People are going to emergency accommodat­ion on the other side of Auckland but still having to find a way to get their kids to school in the morning and picked up in the afternoon, as well as getting to work.

‘‘It’s really stressful when people come up on that seventh day as they don’t know if Work and Income is going to support them again for another week.’’

Green MP Jan Logie said the numbers showed there was an urgent need to build more housing.

‘‘It’s pretty hard to look at the fact that 11,500 people needed emergency housing grants and say that’s not a crisis,’’ Logie said.

‘‘When people are living in cars and on the streets and in garden sheds – we just can’t accept that, we can’t allow that to happen.’’

More people would need the grant during winter.

‘‘The garage will no longer be habitable – those camping out or living in their cars will get to a point where people cannot put up with it,’’ Logie said.

Social Housing Minister Amy Adams did not comment by press time.

When asked about the higher than expected demand for emergency housing in February, Prime Minister Bill English said it was not a sign that there was a housing crisis.

‘‘I wouldn’t call it a crisis. We have strong demand, we have an uplift in prices - these are good problems to have actually,’’ he told The AM Show.

‘‘It’s a demand-led grant, so if people show up, they get it ... we’ll just keep paying as people need it.’’

A recent IMF measure of developed countries found New Zealand had the most unaffordab­le house prices in the world and secondmost unaffordab­le rent prices.

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