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Housing crisis is a Human Rights issue

Media Release

Wednesday, 10 November

Housing crisis in South Auckland is a Human Rights issue


Headlines this week about the dramatic increase in the numbers of families living in garages across South Auckland are a sign of how fragile such a basic human right as the right to adequate housing can be in Aotearoa New Zealand.

"Today is a day for celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights yet there is not much to celebrate in the conditions these families are living in, as highlighted this week by Elaine Lolesio, of Monte Cecillia Emergency Housing," says Community Housing Aotearoa spokesperson Dan Neely.

"The Pacific Island Housing Forum held in Auckland earlier this month is a start to bringing change. The impact of rising rents on families in the Pacific Island community is at a crisis point and the call being made by community leaders to the Government to take urgent action has to be heard loud and clear".

"For its part Community Housing Aotearoa is actively involved in the forums being held and our current focus is to champion the case for more investment in our fledgling community housing sector through promoting a national strategy for and by community housing providers. Our draft strategy was launched in November, and is available from Community Housing Aotearoa with a call for submissions closing on 9 February 2009".

"Housing issues are now about far more than economic affordability, they are about social necessity. To gauge the seriousness of the situation you just need to read the Briefing on Social Outcomes provided to new Social Development Minister Paula Bennett by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD). The briefing states that in 2007 one in three low-income households were struggling to purchase the basic necessities of life after paying for housing costs, and this figure had doubled since 1988," says Dan Neely.

"It is encouraging that MSD has linked the prospect of higher demand for government support to help people meet their housing costs to the reality of our worsening economy, and that it has flagged the critical need for a reassessment of and increase in levels of the Accommodation Supplement to reflect rising costs". 

"Everyone knows that living in inappropriate and poor quality housing leads to poorer health. The economic and social costs documented by MSD unnecessarily high energy costs and rates of respiratory disease, an increase in the likelihood transmission of infectious diseases and increased family stress impacting on children and children's educational outcomes".

"An indication of the seriousness of the housing issues we are facing is the emphasis placed on redeveloping deprived communities in the MSD Briefing to Paula Bennett. Our old answers and the old models of State housing aren't the way for the future if we are going to reduce what MSD calls 'geographic concentrations of disadvantage'. Instead we commend the reference to encouraging the growth of more mixed communities – a mix of housing of varied sizes, prices, and tenures, and catering for single people, couples and families. This is a policy direction that accords with the major steps needed to strengthen the community housing sector as a catalyst for change," says Dan Neely.

"We would expect other Briefings to Incoming Ministers will provide equally relevant challenges for improving housing across all needs, and in line with the theme of dignity and justice for all set for today's Human Rights Day. The Youth Development Briefing for instance has also highlighted the need for an effective response to youth housing problems including youth housing advocates and increasing the housing stock available to young people. As that Briefing states 'there is potential for so much more'!".



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