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Government Jettisons Partners In Fight Against Homelessness, Leaving Hundreds Of Families With Nowhere To Go

The decision by the government to cut a key tool for housing vulnerable whanau could force hundreds of families to remain homeless.

The tool, known as “redirect housing contracts”, involves multi-year agreements with Community Housing Providers (CHPs) to help fund the lease of private properties. The CHP arranges the lease with a property owner to house a family, who contribute 25% of their income to paying the rent, with the government paying the rest.

“Redirects have been a crucial tool for organisations like Monte Cecilia to minimise the homelessness crisis’ impact on top of Covid-19’s implications on New Zealand’s economically vulnerable families,” Monte Cecilia CEO Bernie Smith says. “We have been finding housing this way at a rate of three a week for several years and had managed to place over 200 additional families into transitional housing.”

The scrapping of redirects is set to begin on 1 October, and by the end of 2021 is expected to force over 200 families (totalling over 1000 people, 700 of whom are children) currently in Monte Cecilia accommodation to wait years in temporary housing for the Kāinga Ora build program to catch up. The change in policy will also negatively affect the more than four-hundred families currently on Monte Cecilia’s wait list.

“When Labour came to power there were just over 67,000 state houses and a wait list of 5,000. Five years later and the state house numbers have grown by less than a thousand while the public housing wait list has soared to 24,000. The decision to throw tools out of the toolbox at this time of crisis is utterly baffling, and what’s doubly confusing is the government’s own 2021-2024 housing plan acknowledges the role of CHPs and states they are committed to ongoing investment in the sector.”

At the same time that the Government is stopping redirects for CHPs, Kāinga Ora is still buying new developments to meet its goal of an additional 1000 transitional (redirects) properties by September 30

“In his evidence to the Waitangi Tribunal this month, Kāinga Ora CEO Andrew McKenzie said the organisation has an ‘ambitious programme’ to increase the number of state houses by 8200 over the next four years. But, on current figures this will not even keep up with the increase in housing need, much less tackle the enormous waiting list,” Bernie says.

“The Prime Minister herself has spoken of pulling every possible lever, but instead it feels like they’re pulling the rug out from under us at a time when families are stuck living in overcrowded houses, garages and even cars. Politicians and government officials love talking about supporting CHPs and using housing development openings as photo opportunities, but mostly it’s been all talk and very little action.”

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