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Affordable Housing good for wellbeing too!

In responding to today’s Wellbeing Budget, Community Housing Aotearoa has again called for the establishment of a permanent affordable housing fund in order to drive real progress, and reiterated the community housing sector’s willingness to apply its capital resources to such an initiative.

“Whilst we welcome the government’s focus on wellbeing in this year’s budget, Community Housing Aotearoa is disappointed that Wellbeing Budget 2019 won’t deliver a significant scaling up of the affordable housing required to support investments in child and family wellbeing,” said CEO Scott Figenshow

“We are fully supportive of the investments in mental health and note that 38 out of 40 recommendations in He Ara Oranga: Report of the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Additions were supported. Yet to fully realise the wellbeing potential, we need an expanding base of affordable housing as the platform for families to succeed.”

“The Mental Health Inquiry and the Welfare Expert Advisory Group (WEAG) reports both clearly identified the importance of housing for wellbeing. WEAG specifically recommended investments in housing for affordable rental and progressive homeownership. We are a growing country and we need to make the housing investments at the same time as the health and wellbeing investments.

“Child Poverty Action Group’s report “The Accommodation Supplement: The wrong tool to fix the house” puts forward 3 key recommendations that are essential to steering government investment, that are complimentary to a wellbeing approach. Our ears are open as to how this will be addressed. Whilst we absolutely support the need to ensure people have immediate assistance we cannot ignore the importance of ensuring the housing pipeline is being developed.

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“We have long been calling for an Affordable Housing Fund to make further capital investments in affordable housing through affordable rentals and KiwiBuy progressive homeownership delivered through our country’s strong and capable not-for-profit community housing sector.

“There are already many examples of this, such as the new development at Puhinui Park in Auckland, and the sector has a long track record of delivering homes across the housing continuum. That includes investing in iwi and Māori provider-led solutions, that work for iwi and hāpu.

A permanent affordable housing fund – similar to the SuperFund or New Zealand Green Investment Fund, is needed to scale up the production of affordable homes at scale.

“Such investment can also attract private investment to deliver even better value for money – we know the capital is there, but the settings need to be solid before they will invest.”

Mr. Figenshow said community housing providers are willing and able to bring resources to match government investment.

“In 2011 the Social Housing Fund committed $139m of capital grants to 33 community housing providers around New Zealand. The Government’s investment was matched by community housing providers’ contributions, to a total value of $313m, which resulted in 890 new affordable homes.“

“If Government were to have also announced an equivalent amount for affordable rental and KiwiBuy opportunities as the $283m announced for continuing 2800 transitional housing places for another four years, we would be able to deliver over 1800 new affordable homes, keeping families out of poverty. We need to do both - that would mean the beginning of an end to this crisis.”

Next week community housing providers will gather in Wellington for The Shift Aotearoa Conference 2019. Sparked by the latest research from Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities Ko Ngā wā Kāinga hei Whakamāhorahora National Science Challenge and international researchers, and case studies from community housing practitioners in Aotearoa New Zealand, the conference will seek to develop a platform for cross-sector action.

“We’ve been asked to be patient for further housing announcements. The sector’s ears are open!” said Mr Figenshow

Facts

In responding to homelessness, community organisations are delivering in greater numbers. Community organisations are supporting 2,697 households in Transitional Housing. With an average stay of around 13 weeks, more than 10,000 households are seeking Transitional Housing annually. Further, the Housing First programmes placed 199 new households in just the last quarter, bringing their total currently housed to 720. Yet our sector providers assisting these households see every day the tragic impacts of our failing housing system.

The Social Housing Register grew to 11,067 households; a 40% increase for the year and a 300% rise since 2016. HUD reported nearly $70 million was spent on the Temporary Additional Support and Emergency Housing Special Needs Grants for the quarter. These figures show significant investment into permanently affordable supply is needed. Continuing to spend hundreds of millions annually on crisis response without investing in the affordable homes needed to avert the crisis is not a Wellbeing approach.

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