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Housing Deprivation Requires Urgent Action

A survey showing nearly a third of secondary students in northern New Zealand experience housing deprivation shows the need to urgently review the accommodation supplement and increase the Family Tax Credit, Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft says.

Just under a third of the more than 7000 students surveyed by Youth19<http://www.youth19.ac.nz/> in its Housing Deprivation Brief reported experiencing at least one form of housing deprivation in the previous year. This is consistent with existing data*.

“Every child should have their own bed, in a safe, warm dry house they can call home,” Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft says.

“When it comes to Child Poverty, housing is the elephant in the room. The Government has promised to look at the Accommodation Supplement as part of its review of Working for Families and that can’t come soon enough.

“Incomes for both low paid households and beneficiaries have fallen behind what it costs to run a family these days, and accommodation costs are rising so fast that families can’t keep up. The upshot is kids living in stress, wondering where they’re going to sleep that night, families breaking up, and children living in cars. This is just devastating.

“The survey found one in ten rangatahi were living in inadequate accommodation, such as sleeping in a garage, or on the floor or sharing a bed. This is completely unacceptable in a country as rich as New Zealand.

“It’s hard enough navigating life as a young person without worrying about how your parents are going to pay rent, or even not knowing if you’re going to have somewhere to sleep that night.

“The increases to benefits announced in the Budget were a great start but still leave about 190,000 children in poverty. The next step is to implement the rest of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group recommendations and dramatically increase the Family Tax Credit for all families for those on benefits and those in work.

“We welcome the review of the Accommodation Supplement announced at the Budget. The maximum level clearly needs to be raised, and then indexed to actual housing costs, but this needs to be accompanied by rules that protect any increase from being gobbled up by landlords,” Commissioner Becroft says.

*Child Poverty Related Indicators<https://childyouthwellbeing.govt.nz/sites/default/files/2021-05/FINAL%20CPRI%20Report.pdf> show that about 30 percent of families in the lowest income quintile, spent more than half their income on housing costs.

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