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Maharey Speech: Housing Aucklanders in need

Steve Maharey Speech: Housing Aucklanders in need

Comments at the announcement of the Auckland housing package. Westgate, Waitakere City.
Introduction

Its great to be here today to see this new housing here in West Auckland.

I’m also taking the opportunity to announce in greater detail the extra boost for Auckland housing in this year’s budget.

First, its good to see you all here – representatives of social agencies, council and Housing New Zealand staff.

As you can see, these are good new homes.

More housing for people in need.

Good examples of the standard modest housing being built for state housing tenants today.

Increases in Housing Stock

In the Budget last week a further $126 million in capital funding over the next three years was announced to further increase housing for those in need.

Auckland is facing a significant housing supply shortage due to its rapid population growth.

In turn this makes it more difficult for households on low incomes to find affordable housing and has increased housing stress.

This housing stress has been made worse and deepened by the previous government's sell off of 13,000 state houses to the highest bidder. What's more they had the intention to sell another 19,000 by this year. This has created a huge social deficit reflected in the fact that the number and proportion of those on the priority waiting list in Auckland for a Housing New Zealand home is more than double the average for the rest of the country.

This labour led government is determined to restore state housing as part of its commitment to social justice and new housing I'm announcing for Auckland today is another step on that path.

This extra funding will enable another 500 houses to be added to Housing New Zealand stock in Auckland through building, buying or leasing. Overall, this means that in the three years 2004-2007 Housing New Zealand will add more than 3,000 homes to its national stock. That is on top of the more than 4,000 added already by this government.

That’s a lot more houses for people in need.

People in need of a good home.

A foothold for the future for families.

A secure home for older people in retirement.

Of the 3000 increase in the three years ahead, nearly 80% will go into Auckland.

That’s a further 2,406 homes for people in need in Auckland: 1,135 in South Auckland, 704 in Central Auckland and a further 567 in West and North Auckland.

Just over 700 of those extra homes are due to be delivered in Auckland next year.

Creating social justice in housing is not just about adding more homes; it requires effort and innovation across the housing sector.

Improving Stock

Many of Housing New Zealand’s properties are older. They are dated and need updating.

Also many were built when a three-bedroom house was required.

These days, with changing populations, more one or two bedroom properties are needed along with more larger four-bedroom plus houses.

Housing New Zealand is continuing to modernise and improve its existing houses so they are good for tenants both now into the future.

A whole range of programmes are underway.

Houses and apartments are being reconfigured so they are better to live in.

We’re modernising properties; making them warmer and drier through putting insulation into older homes.

New kitchens and bathrooms are going into older properties so we have good rental stock for the years ahead.

In this next financial year Housing New Zealand Corporation will continue to improve its Auckland homes through its modernisation, community renewal, energy efficiency and healthy housing programmes.

And it will continue its programme of improving the former Auckland City Council housing.

Overall, HNZC expects to be spending about $190 million this year on adding to or improving its housing in Auckland, and nearly $600 million over the three years.

Across the country, about $834 million will be spent over the next three years on additional or improved housing.

Programmes and Linkages

Through a range of interventions, the Healthy Housing Programme here in Auckland is dealing with the health risks associated with overcrowding.

In some areas with high concentrations of state housing – for example Glen Innes and Clendon – we have innovative Community Renewal programmes underway in partnership with local councils, government agencies and local people.

These not only improve and make safer the physical environment of where people live, but also give them more a sense of ownership within their community.

Improving health and safety features through programmes like Healthy Housing and Community Renewal is linked to seeking improved economic, social and education benefits.

Supporting communities forms part of this approach.

Housing New Zealand increasingly is working alongside other government agencies and social sector groups to bring about better social outcomes.

The Corporation works alongside the Work and Income arm of the Ministry of Social Development so that people get their full benefit entitlements and are linked into work opportunities.

If they are securing private sector rentals, HNZC is alongside Work and Income to ensure that bond payments and other income supplements are sorted.

Maintenance and other contractors doing work for the Corporation are required to demonstrate how they will assist the sustainability of the communities in which they work.

This may involve providing work opportunities or other practical assistance. This is all part of the Corporation’s housing action for Auckland.

Housing action involves more than increasing and improving the state house rental stock.

Housing Innovation Fund

It is also an objective to increase the availability of housing options for low to moderate income households through growing the social housing sector.

In particular the Housing Innovation Fund established last year provides grants, capital funding, practical assistance and support to third sector groups and iwi to develop their capacity and capability to provide social housing. It also encourages local authorities to invest in social housing.

There is a $63 million funds for this, established in last year’s Budget, and to date HNZC has had over 50 enquiries from community-based organisations.

Interest has come from iwi/Maori, disability and mental health services, aged care and emergency care providers, and general purpose social housing. Some six applications have either been approved or are near approval which will provide around 50 new social housing units.

Over the next three years, we expect to see greater interest in this fund and a corresponding increase in social housing provided by third sector and iwi based groups.

Similar interest is coming from local authorities wanting to keep or increase their social housing.

Community Group Housing

Part of Housing New Zealand’s role is to manage rental properties for local and national community organisations providing accommodation for people with special needs.

HNZC buys properties in consultation with service provider groups, modifies them to meet regulatory standards and the client’s requirements and helps with rent relief.

There are currently 293 community housing properties in the Auckland region, let to a variety of groups who: Work with people with mental health issues, intellectual or physical difficulties Provide refuge for women Offer emergency or family accommodation Provide facilities for children Offer assistance or support to people with other issues, such as substance abuse.

There is a growing demand for emergency accommodation in Auckland to meet the immediate needs of people in housing crisis.

Housing New Zealand doesn’t directly provide emergency housing, but it does rent community houses to providers.

In Auckland, it provides 31 properties for either emergency or family accommodation.

The family homes are most usually transitional accommodation and 70% of people leaving that accommodation are then housed by the Corporation.

Provider groups will continue to be able to seek community housing assistance. Another 101 community houses are planned for this year. How many will be in Auckland, depends on demand.

In West Auckland, a new emergency house is being prepared by the Glen Eden Baptist Church. Housing New Zealand has assisted with funding for modifications. This emergency house, with 7 beds and the first in West Auckland, is due to open in July.

Home Ownership

Action is also underway to support home ownership and provide other help for low to moderate earners who are not in state housing.

A mortgage insurance scheme is being piloted. Through this the Corporation underwrites home loans for moderate income households who don’t meet mainstream lending criteria.

About 250 homes now belong to people who previously thought home ownership beyond their reach.

Working for Families

Through the Budget last week other forms of housing assistance and support are also provided.

The Working for Families package is designed to make work pay and put more money in the pockets of low and middle income families with children.

Working for Families will increase Family Support and Family Tax Credit, increase Childcare Assistance and Accommodation Supplement, and provide a new In-Work Payment for eligible working parents.

The package will build over the next three years to deliver around $1.1 billion support to low and middle income families by April 2007.

In October this year, we’ll remove the abatement of the Accommodation Supplement for beneficiaries with additional income. We’ll also make Accommodation Supplement available to more working people.

In October we’ll also make the first changes to improve Childcare Assistance. Families on higher incomes will also be eligible for Childcare Assistance, and new Childcare Co-ordinators will help families to access quality, affordable childcare and subsidies.

In April next year, we’ll increase some maximum Accommodation Supplement rates and create a new Accommodation Supplement area in central and north Auckland. Beneficiaries and working people without children, as well as families, will benefit from these changes.

NZ Housing Strategy

Underlying the approach to housing is the development of an overall housing strategy that will have a particular relevance to Auckland.

A few weeks ago I launched the discussion document ‘Building the Future: Towards a New Zealand Housing Strategy’.

Over recent times, particularly here in Auckland, there have been various pressure points in housing – rising rents, concerns about housing quality, a residential housing boom which pushed up home prices, and lengthening state house waiting lists.

This Strategy is being developed with the aim of providing direction to the overall housing market for the 10 years. It identifies six key areas for the housing sector to focus on: Improving housing assistance and housing affordability Responding to housing markets under stress Developing innovative home ownership programmes Developing the private rental sector Improving housing quality, and Building capacity and capability in the housing sector.

Of particular relevance is Auckland and how it will deal with its expanding population, and housing pressures, within a contained urban area.

If current patterns continue, planners have estimated that the population of the Auckland region will reach two million by 2050.

By then, it is envisaged that more than a quarter of Auckland’s two million people will live at increased densities.

This forecast brings a need for renewed and informed debate on how to provide for sustainable population growth with more medium density housing within the existing urban area and managed expansion into newer greenfield areas.

The challenge is how to ensure there is good quality, affordable housing in the right areas for those on lower and moderate incomes.

Conclusion

In closing, the Auckland housing pressures are complex and challenging.

Housing action is underway.

The Government, through Housing New Zealand and income support from Work and Income, accepts the responsibility for helping those most in need.

It brought in income-related rents for state house tenants, and is continuing to increase the number of state houses to deal with demand.

This Budget adds another 500 houses for Auckland to help meet priority demand.

A total 2,400 extra state houses in Auckland alone over the next three years.

Programmes are underway to improve existing state housing. It can’t all be done overnight, but its happening.

Because it can’t do it alone, the Government is also funding innovative third sector housing schemes.

New home-ownership support is underway.

In the Budget last week a package for working families put more money in the pockets of low-and-middle income families with children.

And over all that, we are in the final stages of developing an overall housing strategy for New Zealand that will set housing direction for the next 10 years.

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