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Housing Choice Essential to Addressing Homelessness

Date: 5/11/15
Housing Choice Essential to Addressing Homelessness

Following Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett’s conformation of plans to crack down on social housing applicants, social development agency Lifewise are calling on the government to reconsider plans to remove people from the social housing register if they turn down a property.

“We see the effects of the housing shortage in Auckland every day. Already, many of our homeless clients struggle to get onto the housing register and then to remain on the list,” says Moira Lawler, Lifewise’s General Manager. “Further tightening of the rules will place more vulnerable people at risk.”

Homelessness is increasing around New Zealand. In the last year alone, the number of people rough sleeping within just 3km of Auckland’s Sky Tower has doubled to nearly 150 people. In 2006, more than 15, 000 people in Auckland had safe or stable housing, and service providers report that the demand for their services has been increasing every year.

“The people most affected by Auckland’s housing crisis are our most vulnerable. They are the ones who end up sleeping in over-crowded garages, on people’s couches and under bridges when they can’t afford a rental,” says Moira.

International research shows that getting people into permanent homes is much more cost effective than keeping them on the streets – but having a choice is essential to ensure people remain housed. For the most vulnerable people, who are homeless with mental health and substance use problems, research shows housing choice is a crucial factor in ensuring they remain housed.

“Rather than further rationing state housing, we need both a significant investment in new housing suppliers and funding to enable people to access private rentals,” says Moira.

“New Zealand desperately needs to wake up and address the cold, hard facts. Access to safe and secure housing is not a luxury – it’s a human right. If we don’t act now, more and more people will be pushed to the margins. And at the end of the day, that’s a cost we will all have to bear.”

- Ends -

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