Government must do more to address housing-related poverty

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) argues the Government's rhetoric around the relief of housing-related poverty is not being matched by what it is doing and achieving through its housing policies.

Although CPAG welcomes the Government's recent $300m boost to reduce the use of motels as emergency accommodation, CPAG believes the Government needs to place greater emphasis on ensuring benefits are adequate for households and enough decent housing is being built for all New Zealand's families. Healthy, secure, affordable homes for families gives children a better opportunity to flourish.

Low-income renters are being left out in the cold  

While the housing crisis has negatively affected many groups, it appears those relying on welfare benefits are struggling the most in the private sector rental market. In part this is because mean rents have increased by 30 percent over the past five years, yet core benefit rates (fixed to inflation) have only risen by 7 percent over the same period.

CPAG Housing spokesperson Frank Hogan says, 'It is unacceptable that families are literally being left out of the rental market and are being forced to raise children in unsuitable long-term accommodation such as caravan parks, garages, and motels.'

Hogan says, 'These facts alone demand a strong response from the Government'.

What the government needs to do

In addition to increasing core benefits to ensure incomes are enough to cover housing costs, CPAG calls for the Government to make a bigger financial commitment to build adequate stock of publicly owned social housing units and to support hapu and iwi-led housing initiatives.

'The fact is, although we saw the highest number of consents issued in 45 years last year, this is probably only enough to keep housing availability at current levels. Higher volumes of new builds are required to address the shortage of affordable housing.' Hogan explains.

Furthermore, the Government's commitment to building or buying 6400 extra publicly owned social housing units between 2018 and 2022 (1600 per year) is too low. In 2017 the Salvation Army estimated future demand for social housing was at least 2000 additional units per year for 10 years.

CPAG believes the Government should be placing greater emphasis on building additional public housing and less emphasis on its flagship KiwiBuild programme.

CPAG is concerned too that the redevelopment of land on which public or state housing has been located for so-called mixed income/tenure communities, is merely a form of state sponsored gentrification. We believe that such gentrification is literally coming at the expense of building decent housing for New Zealand's poorest families and households.