News

Poor families at back of the queue for decent housing

Urgent action is needed to make sure families have healthy and affordable homes, says the Child Poverty Action Group.

CPAG is launching a campaign for healthy and affordable homes for families at East Tamaki Healthcare centre in Otara Mall on Tuesday 18 August, at 3pm.

Health spokesperson Professor Innes Asher said, "There are major, systemic problems with the housing market in New Zealand, which would take many years to sort out even if the government had a comprehensive strategic plan for housing. But children can get sick within weeks or even days living in unhealthy accommodation. They cannot wait. We need urgent action to provide healthy and affordable housing for families now."

CPAG is calling on government to act urgently to:

Introduce and enforce a Warrant Of Fitness (WOF) for rental housing 

Introduce subsidies to get rentals up to a healthy standard. 

Urgently review and update the Accommodation Supplement.

Spokesperson Frank Hogan said, "Most poor families live in private rental accommodation. With the current housing shortage, they have been pushed right to the back of the queue for homes and are ending up with the worst properties."

Thousands of families are forced to shift from place to place, or live in crowded, unhealthy conditions because of high rents. They end up sharing with other families, or living in garages, caravans, crowded boarding lodges and campgrounds. When their options run out some families can end up living in cars.

Substandard housing has a major impact on children, affecting everything from their health and educational achievement, to their emotional well-being. Mouldy, damp housing makes children sick and can cause life-long harm. Shifting from home to home, living in crowded conditions and sickness stops children learning. Such stressful conditions are no way for children and families to live.

Frank Hogan said New Zealand children have a right to decent housing under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children, which New Zealand signed up to more 20 years ago. "Under UNCROC the New Zealand Government has a duty of care to provide decent housing for children and it is failing to meet this commitment.

The government spends hundreds of millions subsidising substandard private rental accommodation through the Accommodation Supplement. Frank Hogan said, "Rentals are almost twice as likely to be in poor condition as owner-occupied homes. This is unacceptable and New Zealanders should expect better value for public expenditure. Families need homes that are both healthy and affordable to provide a stable environment where children can thrive."