'Amazing numbers' on the priority waiting list for social housing

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) says that the Government is out of touch with the severity of the housing crisis, and that our policy makers need to respond by urgently designing a real and meaningful strategy to end this affliction.

In a thought-provoking interview with Guyon Espiner on Morning Report, Prime Minister John Key stated he would be "amazed" if WINZ could not immediately house people currently living in cars, particularly if children were involved. But Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett today affirmed the opposite - she could not give her personal guarantee that WINZ could be effective in solving homelessness among our most desperate.

The PM need only refer to Ministry of Social Development’s (MSD) Social Housing Register to grasp more clearly the reality. For years now there has been a core of thousands of people (including children) who have been classified under the label "Priority list A", as having a "severe and persistent housing need" and whose housing needs must be addressed immediately. These people are considered "at risk".

"Severe and persistent housing needs" requiring "immediate" addressing are not the witterings of some liberal commentator looking on from the sideline, but a statement of harsh reality by MSD who is charged with the responsibility of housing our most vulnerable citizens.

Children living in cars, shared garages, shipping containers and the like surely fall into the "Priority A" category.

The latest number on the "A" priority list (as at 31 March 2016) is 2188 - not the close to zero figure that would relieve the Government of amazement.

The PM in his careful and considered interview with Guyon Espiner concluded, in responding to the plight of children living in cars: "That's not the New Zealand we want and it's not acceptable." With that sentiment, all compassionate and right-thinking people in New Zealand can agree.

John Key's genuine concern for the well-being of children in desperate situations is reassuring, but his ill-founded confidence in the current welfare system to provide for them is cause for a much wider concern. If our Prime Minister is contradicted by his own Minister, then there is need for a deeper investigation into systemic operations.

What must be addressed most urgently is the lack of affordable housing supply for our many destitute families. Paula Bennett also reported today that the $41 million promised to assist with emergency housing is not to fund new beds, but to better fund those organisations that provide them in order that they may then create new beds in the future. While it is helpful and necessary funding, it is a band-aid for the real problem - and not even a quick fix.

CPAG housing and law spokesperson Frank Hogan says, "The challenge for the Prime Minister and his Government is now to wake up to the reality of homeless children, and to respond with urgency in a real and meaningful way to remove this blight on our nation."