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Housing Crisis No Time To Be Selling Public Housing Stock, Monte Cecilia Housing Trust CEO Bernie Smith Says

Monte Cecilia Housing Trust CEO Bernie Smith says Government plans to sell up to 270ha of Auckland public and state house land to private developers risks worsening the plight of tens of thousands of New Zealand families trapped in transitional housing.

Monte Cecilia Housing Trust is a non-profit organisation that provides transitional and community housing to about 2000 families each year in the South and West Auckland areas.

“It’s a sad indictment of our country that even as 25-30,000 people are trapped living in temporary and transitional housing, the government is selling state houses to private developers,” Bernie says. “I understand they are selling it to fund long-term intensification plans, but this worsens the current problem, which is already at crisis levels, in the hopes of catching up later. The impact will be felt for generations in Health, Education and Justice outcomes.”

Monte Cecilia CEO Bernie Smith is deeply concerned for the children living in temporary transitional housing accommodation, such as the 4000 motel rooms the government pays for, saying reducing public housing stock will force them to stay in these situations longer.

“Transitional housing providers who promised to find a long-term home for families in three to six months now cannot fulfil that promise with the Government selling the housing supply line out from under us. It’s not ok to say to the 10,000+ children across our nation in temporary housing that ‘the State will sort it eventually’ because for decades they have not.”

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“These children are living in homes full of stress, where the burden of taxes, food and fuel costs are constantly rising, pushing them into debt as they try to survive and work out how they are going to put food on the table. Sadly, these children often watch their parents go without food so they can eat.”

Out of the 815 children currently in Monte Cecilia-supplied temporary housing, 400 are seven-years-old or younger. Motel living is not desirable for children, particularly in this age group, as it embeds insecurity and poverty by forcing families to live one day at a time, unable to plan for their futures.

“These children, who are in their formative years, are being traumatised by the feeling that nobody cares and they don’t count because they live the reality of poverty, hour by hour, day by day, running into weeks, months and now potentially years.”

“Political point scoring or promises does not offer them a future and a hope, it does not give them the opportunity to grow strong and healthy or enable them to one day stand tall in their culture, gender, education, employment, family and to live in a community where they could feel valued and contribute.”

Many community housing providers are full with large waiting lists, and the social housing wait list has ballooned to around 27,000 applicants as the working poor, once self-sustaining family units, are forced from their rentals as rents and living costs continue to increase.

“Monte Cecilia is about to enter its 40th year supporting those living in poverty and homelessness and over that time we’ve watched this problem get progressively worse. Selling state housing en-masse and intensifying the problem in the hopes of raising money to fix things years down the line only contributes to the ongoing catastrophe unfolding right now.”

Monte Cecilia is calling on the Government to recognise that it cannot resolve the problem on its own, and instead needs work in partnership with community housing providers to unlock their ability to finance their own expansions.

“The government must not go it alone. With the right mix of capital funding and long-term policies to unlock financing opportunities, we can work together to solve our housing crisis by building thousands more homes while developing strong healthy communities in safe warm & secure housing.”

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