NZ homelessness ‘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 41,705 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 this statistics with the rates in other developed nations. Its finding puts New Zealand at the top of the list on a percapita basis – although the researchers noted significant comparability issues, thanks to the differing ways each country measures homelessness.
Labour’s housing spokesman, Phil Twyford, said this research showed we have ‘‘the worst level of homelessness in the world’’.
He believed the figure would have risen much 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 is blown out and, anecdotally, people like the Salvation Army are saying they have never seen homelessness this bad.’’
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.
Housing New Zealand numbers out yesterday revealed there were currently 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’’. Close to half of those on the list were Maori and more than 2400 candidates had children.
Both the Greens and Labour argue that instead of spending money on motel stays, the Government should prioritise building more state houses.
‘‘It’s not a housing policy, it’s an admission of failure – the ultimate in short-termism,’’ Twyford said.
Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett, who was social housing minister until late 2016, told the AM Show yesterday morning that, ‘‘in hindsight’’, the Government could have acted earlier to address the emergency housing issue.
‘‘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.’’
Social Housing Minister Amy Adams said the Government had stepped up its 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, and while demand has increased, help is there for those who need it.
‘‘Part of the drive behind the higher demand is rising rents affecting those with low incomes. We’re aware of this pressure, which is why the Government is lifting accommodation supplements as part of our $2 billion Family Incomes Package.
‘‘More social housing is also needed, and the 13,500 new social houses in Auckland and hundreds of others we’re building across the country will help.
‘‘While motels are not ideal, they are warm and dry, and preferable to families sleeping rough during the coldest months of the year.’’
But Twyford said the Government was just making empty promises. ‘‘The amount they have taken out of Housing New Zealand in taxes and dividends could have built 5000 more state houses.’’
"Winter is seeing an increase in the number of people needing support." Social Housing Minister Amy Adams