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Befuddling figures will not house families in need

It’s time our Government stopped confusing the nation with its baffling numbers and vague talk of housing projects, and showed New Zealanders a real plan to increase the current social housing stock from 66,000 to 72,000 in the next three years, as it has apparently promised.

Most of the recent discussion around a “social housing plan” is tied up in “transitional” housing and “social housing places” intended only for temporary and emergency needs. How the Government intends to grow the number of permanent dwellings for the many in need remains shrouded in mystery.

Here are a few recent announcements from the Beehive:

 

The benefits of being able to temporarily house more and more families have been lauded by Social Housing Minister Amy Adams. But while having families with children crowded into shared facilities is getting them out of their vans and garages, when will there be any realistic, long-term relief for them? Is the Government content to simply move people onto the next temporary dwelling if their housing needs have not been met in the designated time-frame?

 Of the 71 new houses being talked about for Hamilton, only 26 of these are intended to be social housing. And let’s not forget there are 3422 households on the ‘Priority A’ waiting list for social housing, who are categorised by having a “severe and persistent housing need”. A further 1443 households on the 'Priority B' list are determined to have a “serious housing need”. That’s 4865 households, more than 2000 of which have children - without a  permanent place to call home. This is a further increase from the December 2016 figures which were up 49% from the year before.

The Government has discussed its intent to expand housing in Auckland by 34,000 homes in the next decade, saying much of which will be affordable, with many earmarked as social housing.

Interestingly the social housing figure of 66,000 doesn’t seem to make sense. The latest Housing New Zealand annual report shows stock levels, as at 30 June 2016 are at 64,408. In September 2016 the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) reported it funded 61,407 social housing units. The latest quarterly report presents a total figure of 65,979, of which only 62,459 are registered “Income Related Rent Subsidy places” (the number comprised of Housing New Zealand stock and Community Housing providers) while the remainder are market rent houses or empty. We can only speculate about what will become of the 2500 state houses for sale in Christchurch.

Layers of bureaucracy have hindered Housing New Zealand from building more homes, but they are saying now they have the “all-clear” to make way for new builds, particularly in Auckland where they will be demolishing existing stock previously protected by blanket heritage overlays. That that could mean up to 2,450 more social houses added to the stock in the region, with a goal to increase the stock by 5500 units by 2019 through building and acquisitions.

It sounds good on the surface, however much of the supposed new stock increase will be from transfers of other social housing units into the Income Related Rent Subsidy programme which doesn’t add up to more homes for those who are currently waiting for one.

In fact of the 34,000 new houses for Auckland over the next 10 years, a total number of new social housing stock, due to transfers and replacing demolished stock will be less than 1000.

Alan Johnson, co-convenor of Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has detailed a breakdown of just what the latest announcements around housing numbers will really mean.

Vague numbers of extra social housing alongside purchases of motels and expanding emergency housing budgets are no substitute for a credible and well-funded plan to address our housing crisis.  

 

  Photo credit: andym5855