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Government action needed to help homeless

Government action needed to help homeless

The Public Health Association is calling on Government to introduce state-backed home loans to low-income families to allow them to own their own homes and reduce state house waiting lists.

Director Dr Gay Keating says the PHA is concerned homelessness and substandard housing in Christchurch could have serious implications for the long-term health of children from low-income families. The Christchurch Press has reported increasing homelessness, as well as families living in substandard housing that is cold, damp, dark and overcrowded.

Dr Keating says the links between poor quality housing and poor health and educational outcomes are well known. Epidemics of infectious diseases like meningococcal disease are more common when people live, work or play in overcrowded housing, she says.

"Children are also sensitive to stress, and a family living in stressful and overcrowded conditions can impact on the psychological well-being, health and educational status of children.

The PHA points out that more than 12,000 Housing New Zealand houses were sold between 1992 and 2000, leaving low-income families unable to compete in a tight rental market.

House price increases have seen low-income families become increasingly reliant on rental accommodation, Dr Keating says.

"High rents mean there is little money for nutritious food and health care, a situation that also poses a threat to children's health."

Dr Keating says state-backed home loans to low-income families would be one positive step to address the growing problem of inadequate housing. She says government should also start acquiring at least 1000 state houses a year to relieve this crisis.

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