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Hidden housing crisis coming out into the open

27 July 2004

Hidden housing crisis coming out into the open

Northland-based Green MP Sue Bradford says news today that families in the region are being forced to live in cars is bringing a hidden nationwide housing crisis out into the open.

"Not only is the waiting list for housing assistance in Northland getting steadily longer," said Ms Bradford, the Green Party's Housing Spokesperson, "but many homeless people are not even on the list at all".

"There is a hidden housing crisis in New Zealand as interest rates and rising prices keep potential homeowners in rental accommodation and, in turn, push the poorest people out in the cold. Investors buying up cheap houses in places like Kaitaia may be making the problem particularly acute in the North, but it's an issue everywhere.

"While the Greens support the general thrust of the Labour Government's housing policy, we hold them to account for not acting anywhere near quickly enough to repair the damage done by their National predecessor's shameful sell-off of state housing in the 1990s. We therefore see housing as a key issue in the run up to next year's election.

"More must be done to reveal the reality of the situation. Today's media reports that Northlanders in need are being put off from seeking assistance from Housing New Zealand by the expectation of long delays confirm that the agency is just waiting for people to come to them. They should be working with social agencies and other government departments to identify and proactively assist those in need of housing, such as the eight people reported to be living in a two-bedroom house in Whangarei, rather than only basing their allocation and planning on the numbers opting to join the waiting lists.

"But even without completely defining the problem, its obvious there is a need for the Government to quickly build many more state houses. Buying houses is going to build up the state stock, but it's not going to increase the over-all supply of low-cost accommodation.

"Reports that the skills shortage in Northland stand in the way of such a program in the region are a legacy of the closedown of apprenticeships in the 1990s, which also shows that we're still paying the price of the Nats' destructive ideology. A short-term solution will come when the Ngawha Prison is completed and more tradespeople are available locally.

"The Government needs to do more than expand its own stock of houses. It needs to address the supply of other forms of social housing by encouraging local bodies back into the sector and by proactively working with community groups to address housing in associated areas such as mental health," said Ms Bradford.

ENDS

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