The ‘Ending Homelessness in New Zealand’ report was released yesterday following a ‘cross-party inquiry’ involving Labour, the Greens and the Maori Party.
The hundreds of submissions and pieces of evidence presented to the Cross-Party Inquiry into Homelessness show that the level of homelessness in New Zealand is larger than any other time in recent memory and is continuing to grow. The housing crisis is causing an extreme level of homelessness, particularly in Auckland, with families forced to live on the streets, in cars, and in garages.
While New Zealand has had an underlying level of homelessness for some time, there has been a substantial increase in recent years driven by a lack of affordable housing. Many of the problems causing homelessness track back over 30 years, but the current Government has exacerbated the situation by allowing the housing crisis to spin out of control. It has the power to fix it if it is prepared to take the necessary steps.
Homelessness is no longer dominated by the stereotypical rough sleeper with mental health issues and is now more often a working family with young children. Māori and Pasifika communities have disproportionately suffered, along with new migrants who also face substantially higher rates of homelessness. Submitters told us that the vulnerability of other groups such as people with disabilities, the rainbow community and people with mental health issues is exacerbated by homelessness.
The small steps taken by the Government so far are insufficient. To address the problem the Government needs to implement a comprehensive set of measures that address the housing crisis at every level. There needs to be a substantial scaling up of resources to tackle homelessness using Housing First and Whānau Ora approaches.
The Government must step in and address the overall housing crisis by cracking down on speculation in the property market and building significantly more affordable houses. An expansion of state and community housing to provide long term affordable rental accommodation is vital. Without an increase in permanent housing for the homeless to go into, the issue will not ultimately be addressed. We have also identified through the inquiry, a range of other practical measures to reduce homelessness. These steps make up the 20 recommendations of our Inquiry.
Fixing homelessness won’t be cheap. The proposals in this report, when fully adopted, would require significant investment. However this needs to be considered against the cost of doing nothing. Submitters told us it costs around $65,000 to keep a person homeless. When we have 4,200 people without shelter that is over $250 million a year homelessness is costing us.
To deliver all of this, the Government must develop a nationwide strategy to end homelessness. This needs to set out exactly what it will deliver and how to end the chronic levels of homelessness that New Zealand is now facing.
The submissions to the Inquiry showed that this issue is now more important than ever, and we call on the Government to act boldly and urgently.
Summary of Recommendations
1. Roll out Housing First as the primary response to severe homelessness.
2. Increase the State housing stock.
3. A systemic fix to the housing crisis: Build more affordable houses, reduce the cost of building a home, and tackle speculation in the property market.
4. Create a national strategy to end homelessness.
5. Support Kāinga Whenua housing and develop greater flexibility to recognise multiple owned property title.
6. Long term funding for Community Housing Providers to build houses.
7. Retain the Official Statistics New Zealand definition of homelessness and collect regular data on homelessness.
8. Expand housing for the elderly.
9. Income related rent subsidies for existing community housing tenants.
10. Greater security of tenure for renters.
11. Review the Accommodation Supplement.
12. Use vacant state housing stock for emergency housing.
13. Homes for people leaving state care.
14. Information sharing between agencies addressing homelessness.
15. Work with Pasifika aiga to create Pasifika homelessness services.
16. Permanently remove the Housing New Zealand dividend.
17. More support for homelessness workers.
18. Expand agencies able to undertake needs assessments and refer tenants to emergency housing. 19. Improve the quality of rental housing.
20. Increase youth housing and services.
Full Report: Ending Homelessness in New Zealand (PDF)