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State housing provides vital safety net for poor families

New Zealand's housing crisis is harming children and the Government must step up to make sure poor families have decent housing, says Child Poverty Action Group.

New Zealand's housing crisis is harming children and the Government must step up to make sure poor families have decent housing, says Child Poverty Action Group. 

It was reported in today's New Zealand Herald that rents have risen 9 per cent nationally in the past 12 months, the biggest increase in five years.

CPAG spokesperson Michael O'Brien said, "We have some suburbs in Auckland with houses that are fit for kings, but what we need most is housing fit for kids in all parts of the country.  That means long-term, healthy, affordable housing, in communities where families can put down roots.  At the moment children are being shifted from pillar to post due to unaffordable rents and insecure tenancies. Many families simply do not earn enough to pay for proper housing as house prices and rents sky-rocket.  There are not enough publicly owned houses, not enough affordable homes being built, and high demand has pushed up private rents.  The quality of homes at the cheaper end of the market is very poor, due to lack of regulation and poor maintenance, and even many State houses remain uninsulated despite the Government's commitment to fix them." 

Health Spokesperson Prof Innes Asher said, "New Zealand children suffer very high rates of preventable diseases and stress associated with unfit housing.  It is horrifying to see children forced to live in over-crowded, damp, cold houses, and even in garages or vehicles when you know the long-term damage to their health, education and well-being."  

CPAG is concerned the Government is planning to sell off State houses when a desperate current shortage of affordable housing is having such a disastrous effect on the health and well-being of children and families - particularly in Auckland and Christchurch. Houses owned by central and local government are part of the essential safety net for children. 

Innes Asher said, "Past generations recognised the importance of a stable home in raising children and supporting them to reach their potential.  Many New Zealanders have benefited from state provision of affordable housing, including the Prime Minister.  The Government must step up to meet this crisis and make sure all children have access to affordable healthy homes so they can thrive. We need housing that is fit for kids." 

CPAG would like the Government to develop a clear plan for housing which includes current needs, forecasts of future housing needs, programmes for addressing these needs and the budgets necessary to complete these programmes. 

It is calling on Government to commit to building an additional 1,000 State units and additional social housing units per year in areas of high need.