8 Dec 2017

Housing need 'not going to be fixed overnight'

8:03 am on 8 December 2017

It will take years to cope with the extreme demand from people in need, social housing providers say.

The boot is full of bedding and some food

For some, the family car is also the family home. VisionWest social housing provider said the need had been extreme for years. Photo: Supplied

A briefing paper to incoming Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni revealed demand for social housing had increased by 72 percent in the past two years.

Monte Cecilia Housing Trust chief executive Bernie Smith said some of that increase could be attributed to more people being aware of the service and looking for help.

Mr Smith said the trust had 65 families in its social housing and 35 in emergency housing. This year it had placed 180 families in private rentals or state houses.

He said it was business as usual in a housing crisis, and with a minimum wage set at $15.75, the number of working poor was growing.

"We've got families where Mum will work during the day and Dad will work at night, or vice versa, just to try and put food on the table and clothing on the backs of their kids."

Mr Smith said some families were resorting to loan sharks to pay the rent and avoid the shame of asking family members for help.

"We are getting families coming to us where there's something like $15,000-$20,000 in debt and they've got nothing to show for it other than a car. And even then it wouldn't even be a third of the value of that debt."

State houses in Northcote

Demand for social housing has increased by 72 percent in the past two years, according to a briefing paper to the government. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Mr Smith was not surprised by the 72 percent increase in demand.

"That's partly to do with a heated property market, partly to do with greater awareness around homelessness.

There's a lot more people seeking housing that may not have been seeking housing previously."

VisionWest chief executive Lisa Woolley, said the need had been extreme for years.

"People living in vans, people living in a tent, caravan parks, they're all there and they're certainly coming forward."

Ms Woolley, whose organisation has social housing in Auckland and Christchurch, said she applauded the new government for acknowledging the crisis.

Last winter Te Puea marae in South Auckland opened its doors to those without a roof over their heads and this year it's become a social housing provider with five families living onsite.

Spokesperson Hurimoana Dennis said there was no quick fix, so the number of families in need would not drop in the immediate future.

"Some of these families have been in this sort of situation for a long time. And you're talking generational issues here, they're not going to be fixed overnight."

All three providers agreed wraparound services were key to a family succeeding in private rentals.

The briefing paper also said Māori were over-represented in social housing.

Mr Dennis said the previous government didn't have a Māori homelessness strategy and he urged this government to put one in place.

With 75 percent of whanau accessing its service being Māori, it would go a long way, he said.

"Strategies are a lot of things to people... but at the end of the day they're a statement from an agency to say, 'listen everyone, this is where we're heading, this is why, and this is how we're going to do it'."

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