The Government wants to have enough places available by winter to house those families looking at roughing it in their car over the colder months.
Social Housing Minister Amy Adams said a $350 million investment in emergency housing would provide 8600 places across the country and she hoped the bulk of those would be in place by winter.
Adams’ comments come on the back of emergency housing providers predicting more families will sleep rough this winter because of a lack of affordable accommodation. The issue is further complicated by tens of thousands of players and supporters due to descend on Auckland later this month for the World Masters Games.
READ MORE: * Homeless aren’t ‘great for business’ – Auckland moteliers * Premium motel rates “danger money” for emergency housing risk * South Auckland hotel is home for family waiting for state house The games, combined with another mass arrival in June and July for the Lions Rugby Tour, means even motels currently being used by the Government to house the homeless will be chocker with overseas guests.
Adams said she was unaware of any particular spike in demand this year, although there were seasonal and monthly variations.
Events in certain parts of the country would put pressure on from time to time, and the Government would “do all we can to manage them.
“Our preference is not motel accommodation but if that’s the choice rather than living in a car, that’s a better option, so we’ll do that where we need to, but actually our preference is to be building longer term emergency places, transitional places,” she said.
“Every winter in New Zealand we’ve had issues with people looking for accommodation, that’s why we’ve put a big contribution of money into this space, we’re building as many places as we can.”
But Labour leader Andrew Little says emergency housing is at “breaking point yet again” and it was “entirely predictable”.
“We now have a further extension of the crisis that we all know is there.
“Even in a place like Invercargill that isn’t particularly regarded as overcrowded. Talking to locals down there, they’re telling me the rents they’re being expected to pay are way above anything they’ve ever paid before,” he said.
“Investors are coming in and snapping up houses, and because they’re paying over the odds for them it’s pushing the rents up and making less housing available for emergency and social housing.
Little said the Government’s housing policy wasn’t good enough and “this is not a way for people in New Zealand to live in the 21st century”.
Prime Minister Bill English said emergency housing places are becoming available “as the weeks go by now.
“The money is there and it’s largely about capacity on the ground to create the places quickly enough before winter,” he said.
“The people who turn up to this emergency housing, almost invariably, have a range of issues that have gotten them into this vulnerable situation.
“So it’s important that not only do they get housing … but they can get the kind of backup that’s going to mean they’re not back into a situation of needing emergency housing,” he said.NO GUARANTEE PEOPLE WON’T SPEND WINTER IN CARS
Ministry of Social Development deputy chief executive of housing, Scott Gallacher, told Radio NZ motels would be bought to help alleviate the homeless problem but there was no guarantee people wouldn’t be left with no choice but to sleep in their car.
“The Ministry of Social Development is absolutely committed to working with everyone in our communities – whether that’s in Auckland or elsewhere in the country – to make sure we leave no stone unturned to provide people with safe, secure accommodation.”
Associate Housing Minister Alfred Ngaro told TVNZ last week that Work and Income New Zealand (WINZ) has booked some motels for emergency housing in Auckland but admitted he didn’t know whether it would be enough.
“It’s all about demand, isn’t it? That varies.
“At the moment, on the forecasting, we think there’ll be a bit of a peak that comes along, but our team’s been working hard to make sure we’ve got that covered.”
Currently about 370 families a week rely on motels for emergency housing in Auckland.
Mangere Budgeting Services spokesman Darryl Evans told TVNZ a number of people will end up in cars this winter and some will end up in shipping containers.
“It’s got to be a short-term fix, not a long-term solution. Some people we’ve been working for have been in motels for three, four, five months,” he said.
MARAE HOUSING THE HOMELESS
Last winter Te Puea Marae in Auckland opened its doors to families in need, providing shelter to almost 200 people but there was no guarantee they’d be in the position to do the same again this year.
Marae chairman Hurimoana Dennis told Radio NZ the marae was currently busy helping tourists who had nowhere to stay.
In Auckland, the Salvation Army is turning away two or three families a day.
Policy Analyst Alan Johnson told Radio NZ that landlords didn’t want families on benefits.
“We’ve got nowhere to send them, to refer them to to offer them any form of housing so effectively they are just sent away.”
He said the Government had asked the Salvation Army to help with any ideas around fixing the crisis, but there were no options left when it came to finding somewhere for emergency housing.