Government announce bottom of cliff emergency housing measures

Recognising that problems of homelessness and the difficulty of getting affordable housing haven’t been resolved, the Government has announced more emergency housing measures – and keep blaming the ‘last nine years’ again, despite property prices climbing right through the last three government tenures.

Government steps up action to prevent homelessness

  • 1000 new transitional housing places delivered by end of year to reduce demand for emergency motel accommodation.
  • Introduce 25% of income payment, after 7 days, for those in emergency motel accommodation to bring in line with other forms of accommodation support.
  • Over $70m extra to programmes that prevents those at risk of losing their rentals becoming homeless and support people out of motels and into permanent accommodation.
  • Alongside these immediate actions, there is a long-term plan of action to address and reduce homelessness.

More vulnerable New Zealanders will be moved from emergency motel accommodation to transitional housing as the Government steps up efforts to prevent and reduce homelessness.

The Aotearoa New Zealand Homelessness Action Plan, released today, will also see an increase of 1,000 transitional housing places by the end of the year, adding to the over 1,300 places already created since the Government was formed, further reducing the reliance on leased motels for emergency accommodation.

Using attack as a form of defence the inevitable blaming of the last government.

“This Government inherited a homelessness crisis decades in the making when we took office, that will take time to fix. The previous Government left us with a chronic shortage of houses and were selling off state houses that people desperately needed,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

“We campaigned on tackling housing and homelessness and we are delivering. This Government has put a public housing building programme into action on a scale that hasn’t been seen in New Zealand for 40 years.

A claim to have addressed the living in cars crisis.

“On coming into office, our immediate priority was to get people out of sleeping in cars and garages or on the street and into safe and warm accommodation.” Jacinda Ardern said.

“Over $70 million in this package is dedicated to programmes that are proven to work in helping vulnerable New Zealander’s to stay in their homes and not end up on the streets.

Two years later a lack of housing is still a problem.:

“This next step in our plan aims to both prevent people becoming homeless in the first place and reduce the reliance on motels for emergency accommodation by increasing the supply of transitional housing,” Associate Housing Minister Kris Faafoi said.

The full set of measures are detailed in the Aotearoa New Zealand Homelessness Action Plan https://www.hud.govt.nz/community-and-public-housing/support-for-people-in-need/homelessness-action-plan/

Details of Aotearoa New Zealand Homelessness Action Plan package, backed by over $300m of extra funding, include:

  • $175m to deliver 1,000 additional transitional housing places by the end of 2020
  • $25.6m extra to the Sustaining Tenancies programme to help those at risk of losing their rental with practical support including budget advice, property maintenance, and mental health and addiction support
  • $20m to work with Māori to prevent homelessness & expand housing supply that delivered by Māori
  • $17.5m to support young people leaving Oranga Tamariki care into accommodation with wrap around support services
  • $16.3m to help acute mental health and addiction inpatients transition into the community with housing and other wrap-around support
  • $13.5m to pilot a rapid re-housing approach for people receiving Emergency Housing Special Needs Grants
  • $19.8 million to expand intensive case manager or navigator support services for people in emergency housing longer than 7 nights
  • $8.7 million for a new housing broker service to connect with local landlords and help more MSD clients secure private rental homes
  • $740,000 to fund programmes to help people gain skills and confidence to secure and manage a private rental home
  • $9.3 million to support the wellbeing needs of children in emergency housing, such paying for transport to school or early childhood education

One thing has caused consternation from the left:

Additionally, to ensure parity with other tenants in social housing, a 25% of income payment will be introduced for people staying in motels for longer than 7 days.

No Right Turn: Labour’s festering Neoliberalism

…the “contribution” will be 25% of a “client’s” income, exactly what they’d be paying if they were in a state house with individual bedrooms and a proper kitchen and a backyard rather than a shitty motel.

What stinks is the reason for it: if you read the Cabinet Paper (paragraphs 63-68), its intended to “support a reduction in the reliance on motels” and produce “behavioural changes” which will supposedly reduce the cost of the programme. In other words, it will cause people to either leave those shitty motels earlier than they otherwise would have, or not ask for assistance in the first place.

None of this fixes the big problem – the continued climb in property prices and rental costs.

Post image

From https://www.reddit.com/r/newzealand/comments/f36cp8/yelp/

That’s something that past governments plus the current government have failed to deal with.

Some factors are outside government control, but one huge problem remains – the Resource Management Act makes it slow and costly to make more land available for new housing.

And one problem with the RMA is that it allows small numbers of people to hold things up. One example is playing out in Dunedin now. The 2nd Generation District Plan was notified in september 2015. After a lengthy submission process decisions on the 2GP were notified on 7 November 2018.

Since then one small group of people have appealed, have changed their appeals a number of times, have failed to come to an agreement through mediation, and currently after more changes are headed to a hearing in the Environment Court probably about June. There have already been 9 filings on this one appeal so far this year. Over a thousand properties are impacted, with no development possible until this is resolved.

The Dunedin City Council are aware of an urgent need for more land for building, and are trying to get it resolved, but have had to follow RMA processes that allow people to oppose and delay.

There is no sign of this RMA problem being fixed, hence the need for emergency housing measures being tacked on to previous emergency housing measures.

National emergency housing problems

There is an escalating emergency housing problem, and escalating risks for the Government as embarrassing details emerge.

Newshub: Government blows the budget on emergency housing

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.

Newshub: Government counts homeless in tourism stats

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.

RNZ: PM responds to criticism over housing crisis

English can’t easily talk down the severity of the problems or the embarrassment.