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Government’s Homelessness Action Plan Misses The Mark In The Face Of Rising House Prices

The State Housing Action Network (SHAN) is deeply disappointed that the Government’s recently announced Aotearoa Homelessness Action Plan fails to provide for increases in the state housing stock which are essential for addressing the homelessness crisis.

SHAN also has concerns over the accuracy of statements the Government has made in releasing the plan as to its current state housing program.

These concerns are accentuated by the recent news that the New Zealand housing market is ‘taking off’ with prices rising around the country.

The Government’s plan has pledged $300m to provide an additional 1000 transitional housing units. There was however no additional funding for state housing. In the accompanying press release it was explained that the Government had “put into place a public housing building program on a scale that has not been seen in New Zealand for 40 years” and the Government “ already added 4.000 public housing places since coming to office”.[1]

These claims give the false impression that the Government is already doing enough with public housing. The statistics quoted do not take into account the more than 2000 state houses disposed of in the two years prior to June 2019. Overall, in the first two years this Government has been in power to September 2019 the number of state houses has increased from 61,313 to only 62,901 (1,588 increase) or an annual average of 1.15%.[2] If houses provided by private Community Housing Providers are included in the definition of ‘Public Housing’ the net increase would be 3722 places with over half of the increase from private sources and not ‘added’ by the Government.

Going forward, under the Government’s 2018 Public Housing Plan[3] the aim is to increase the supply of “social” housing by an average of 1600 per year between June 2018 and June 2022, with Housing New Zealand (now Kainga Ora) to provide 70%, being 1120 places, and with private Community Housing Providers supplying the balance.

This plan for the Government building of social housing is modest, to say the least, and is certainly not “on a scale that that has not been seen in New Zealand in 40 years” as claimed.

From data available since 1994, the current state housing budget has been exceeded during the 2002-6 period when there was an annual average increase of 1322 state houses. If the current budget is met by 2022 it will only get the state housing stock back up to about 66.000 places which is around the historical average it had been over recent decades before the transfer in Tamaki and sale in Tauranga of about 4600 state houses in 2016/17.

SHAN believes Government decisions on increasing state housing places should be driven by the numbers on the waiting list. The current deficit between the waiting list and planned increases in state housing is at an historic high. When the Government came to power in September 2017 the waiting list was less than 6000 and had not exceeded this level for at least the preceding two decades. However, a year later the waiting list had ballooned to nearly 10,000 and is now more than 14,000.[4] With the current lift in house prices this list will only continue to increase.

Despite this the Government has stuck to its budgeted increase in state houses in the first year of its housing plan to June 2019 and it was left to the CHP’s to step up and provide greater than budgeted placements.[5]

SHA also notes that the current Government social housing policy is in essence just a continuation of that of the previous National Government with similar budgets for increases in state housing places[6].

To address the current housing crisis the Government must commit to funding a large scale state house building programme.

This view is in line with the 2019 OECD Economic Survey of New Zealand in which it was noted that social housing stocks are low when compared with international norms and need to be increased. Without these measures the additional funding for interim housing announced by the Government and other short-term measures to address the immediate needs of the homeless will remain band aid measures.

SHAN calls on the Government to commit to a major state housing program prior to the upcoming election. At a minimum it needs to triple its current program for increasing the Kainga Ora housing stock to about 3500 a year. The Government itself should provide funds to Kainga Ora for this increase, possibly using funding that had been previously allocated for Kiwi Build.[7] Together with contributions from Community Housing Providers this may be able to increase the social housing stock by around 5000 per year. Even then this will be likely only to slow down increases in the waiting list for social housing. Failing these types of measures the homelessness crisis in New Zealand will only deepen.

[1] Government steps up to action to prevent homelessness press release 13 February 2020.

[1] September 2019 Public Housing Quarterly Housing Report

[1] 2018 Public Housing Plan, Ministry of Social Development, August 2018.

[1] September 2019 Public Housing Quarterly Housing Report

[1] Of the 2089 additional social housing places state housing contributed 1138 and CHPs the balance. June 2019 Public Housing Quarterly Housing Report

[1] In fact, the National Government’s budget to reach 72000 social housing places by June 2020 exceeds the current target by that date of 70, 428.

[1] As had been suggested in the OECD Report

[1] Government steps up to action to prevent homelessness press release 13 February 2020.

[2] September 2019 Public Housing Quarterly Housing Report

[3] 2018 Public Housing Plan, Ministry of Social Development, August 2018.

[4] September 2019 Public Housing Quarterly Housing Report

[5] Of the 2089 additional social housing places state housing contributed 1138 and CHPs the balance. June 2019 Public Housing Quarterly Housing Report

[6] In fact, the National Government’s budget to reach 72000 social housing places by June 2020 exceeds the current target by that date of 70, 428.

[7] As had been suggested in the OECD Report

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