The Government is spending nearly $18,000 a week on Auckland’s North Shore to house families in “uncertain and sometimes unsafe” motel units.
The Ministry of Social Development provides funding for people who need emergency housing through a special needs grant introduced in July 2016.
Figures released to the North Shore Times under the Official Information Act showed 227 grants were given out on the Shore in the December 2016 quarter, at a cost of $212,245.
Each grant was for up to seven days while alternative housing options were investigated, said Scott Gallacher, the ministry’s deputy chief executive for housing. In most cases, the grant did not need to be repaid.
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But more than $200,000 a quarter was a lot of money to spend on motels as a stop-gap measure, said Jan Rutledge, manager of emergency housing provider De Paul House in Northcote.
Families using motels were distressed, as the accommodation was only secured a week at a time and could be unsafe, she said.
“Kids want to go out and explore, as kids do – you can’t keep them in a motel room watching TV. But it’s not your space and there’s a mix of others on site and you have no control over that.”
Rutledge said the current school holidays made staying in a motel even more challenging for families with children, particularly those over 10. Most of the families did not have money or transport to take their children to any activities.
“It’s not just the stigma, it’s the boredom.”
De Paul House was the only place on the Shore with a ministry contract to provide emergency accommodation. When its 12 accommodation units were full or unsuitable, people had to turn to suppliers such as motels.
But Rutledge said the ministry provided only about 30 per cent of the funding needed to run the house.
Motels also did not provide wrap-around support for families, safe places for children to play and learn, nor help for families to get into permanent social housing, she said.
“Most of them [families staying in motels] are just in a holding pattern … It’s not a way forward.”
Those given the grant had to prove they were actively looking for a private rental, which was “just an exercise in futility” with north Auckland’s current rental market, she said.
While Rutledge acknowledged staying in a motel was better than living in a car or garage, she said more social housing was needed for permanent placements.
A five-year plan for Northcote will replace 350 Housing New Zealand houses with 450 state houses and a further 750 affordable or market-rate houses.
But many of those new state houses would be one-bedroom units, Rutledge said.
“I still don’t see a solution for our families.”
DEMAND HIGH IN MILLION-DOLLAR SUBURBS
The $212,245 spent on emergency housing special needs grants on the North Shore was broken down into Ministry of Social Development service centres.
The area with the highest demand was the Takapuna service centre, where $90,373 was paid over the December 2016 quarter.
The average price of a three-bedroom home in Takapuna was $640 a week to rent or $1.6 million to buy, according to Barfoot & Thompson’s March 2017 rental report.
The area with the next highest demand was Glenfield, where $87,630 was paid. The average price of a three-bedroom home in Glenfield was $513 a week to rent or $853,000 to buy.