There is an escalating emergency housing problem, and escalating risks for the Government as embarrassing details emerge.
The Government has had a massive blowout in emergency housing grants, spending almost four times its annual budget in just three months.
As part of an overall $345m investment in emergency housing, the Government only budgeted $2m per year for an estimated 1400 emergency housing grants – which pay for urgent motel stays for families in need.
But in the December quarter alone, the Ministry of Social Development spent $7.7m on emergency housing grants.
There were 8860 grants in the final three months of 2016 – which is more than six times the Government’s expectations.
Social Housing Minister Amy Adams says funding will be topped up from Crown funds in the same way benefits are.
“We’re not going to run out of money, nor will people miss out,” she said. “While demand has been higher, which we’ve been very upfront about, the grant will be available to anyone who is eligible.”
The December quarter was the first to be properly recorded by the Ministry of Social Development.
“The $2 million was what officials predicted might be needed – remembering that this was the first time we’d established the grant, so it was always going to be a forecast,” Ms Adams said.
In a briefing to the Incoming Minister of Social Development, MSD warns the additional demand is “creating pressures”.
“The high level of demand for emergency housing has seen higher than expected numbers of households being supported to stay in motels and other forms of commercial accommodation,” it said.
This is embarrassing for the Government. They didn’t do enough soon enough.
The pressures on housing are also creating funding pressures plus pressures on National in an election year.
The Government has been counting homeless people living in motels in its tourism statistics.
Statistics Minister Mark Mitchell has confirmed official tourism numbers include people who are being put into hostels or motels through emergency housing special needs grants.
The Statistics New Zealand Accommodation Survey is used as a measure of tourism levels, with the definition used to define the domestic tourists “one New Zealander spending one night at an establishment”.
However when Newshub asked tourism minister Paula Bennett if homeless were included, she said no.
“No, because they’re not tourists. Sorry, I’m not sure what you’re asking.
“No they’re not included in the tourism stats for accommodation.”
The Government are looking increasingly out of touch and too slow to respond to housing issues, especially emergency housing.
English can’t easily talk down the severity of the problems or the embarrassment.