12 Jul 2016

Colliers to help govt pre-book motels

5:51 pm on 12 July 2016

The government is using the real estate company Colliers International to find motels for homeless people to stay in.

Families take what can with them to emergency housing in a motel at $190 per night

MSD is entering into exclusive use agreements for motel units. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

The Ministry of Social Development is entering what it calls 'exclusive use agreements' for motel units around Auckland and is working with Colliers to do so.

In June Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett told a select committee that the government was looking at pre-purchasing motel rooms as emergency housing.

The government was under fire at the time over what it was doing to get homeless people - including families living in cars - a roof over their heads.

At the time, Checkpoint with John Campbell spoke to families who were borrowing up to $1400 a week from Work and Income to live in motels.

Mrs Bennett, who was bearing the brunt of the criticism at the time, raised one example of what the government might do.

"We've been looking at, should we almost pre-purchase in some motels. We've got a report that's just come in yesterday morning - that we are looking at that, if that just gets us through particularly this winter period, and it's something we could do relatively quickly, being in the next two to three weeks."

In June RNZ asked Mrs Bennett's office, under the Official Information Act, for the report cited in that select committee. The request was turned down because the information was "soon to be made publicly available".

However, Mrs Bennett's office responded last week and confirmed the Ministry was working with Colliers.

"The Ministry of Social Development has been working with Colliers International to develop new options to expand temporary emergency housing in Auckland over the winter period.

"As a result the Ministry is entering into exclusive use agreements for motel units across Auckland, where clients who are eligible to receive a new, non-repayable special needs grant can stay for up to seven days."

Paula Bennett

Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett told a select committee in June that the government was looking at pre-purchasing motel rooms as emergency housing. Photo: RNZ /Claire Eastham-Farrelly

The details of the deal were not clear.

Neither the Minister or Colliers International would comment on what exactly their arrangement entailed.

Colliers did not have any motels listed on its website but is a real estate heavyweight with over 500 offices, in 66 countries.

Labour MP Carmel Sepuloni said it was bizarre to see the government calling in an international corporate to help it solve problems caused by a housing crisis.

"It's almost like an admission of defeat, that they can't meet the demand for housing, they have no actual solutions to address the problem, and so here they are, admitting defeat by saying the only other option is pre-booking motel accommodation."

Colliers' full report to the Ministry of Social Development was due to be released at the end of July.