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Housing Survey Starts

The level of poor housing in Northland and the East Coast/Bay of Plenty is being assessed in the next month as the first step towards addressing wider social issues faced by these communities, the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey and the Minister of Housing Mark Gosche said today.

Trained assessors, including representatives of kaupapa Maori social services organisations and Housing NZ staff, will be visiting approximately 1500 houses beginning this week to assess unsafe homes.

The Ministers said that recent tragic house fire deaths in the Far North have again highlighted long-standing housing and social problems which need addressing.

"The assessments are the first step in developing longer-term responses to these problems. We recognise that a solution to housing issues cannot be determined in isolation from the other challenges faced by those living in impoverished communities – including access to employment, quality schooling, health and other social services," the Ministers said.

The immediate emphasis of the assessments is on unsafe houses – where people could come to physical harm, for example by relying on open flames for light, heat and cooking. But at the same time the government is working on longer term responses to the issue of inadequate housing and the associated health and education problems.

"We are concerned about the condition of many homes in these areas, particularly where the safety or health of families is threatened.

“With families agreement, the assessors will be able to assist them to contact Government or other agencies for other help, for example, for health or benefit needs.

"The houses being visited have been identified by local kaupapa, housing, health and social agencies as being potentailly unsafe.

“Following the on-the-ground assessment we will aim to work with families living in risky homes, and their communities, to see what can be done in the short and longer-term to reduce the problems posed by living in unsafe housing in isolated areas.

"It is also essential that local people are given the opportunity to take leadership in addressing all these issues, rather than relying on a Wellington-originated solution.

"Accordingly, a number of local social agencies and iwi groups will take the leadership responsibility for working together to assist these families and communities, supported by Housing New Zealand Corporation and other government agencies," the Ministers said.

A Fire Service and DWI Taskforce Green employment project has already begun installing 4,000 smoke alarms in 1,000 homes in Northland, and 5,000 smoke alarms in 1,250 homes in the East Cape region.

They are also providing fire safety information and working with families so they take responsibility for their safety.

Ends

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