5 May 2018

Govt's use of motels 'morally irresponsible' - housing advocate

7:11 am on 5 May 2018

The government is being fiscally and morally irresponsible by continuing to use motels and hotels as emergency accommodation, a group working with the homeless in Auckland says.

A sign advertising a local motel in Auckland

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

The government has announced it will spend $100 million to try to tackle homelessness and provide emergency housing.

But the group Auckland Action Against Poverty said that was a drop in the bucket of what was really needed and using it for expensive hotel accommodation limited how far it would go.

"Ultimately hotels are proft driven. They are an industry that is charging government a few hundred bucks per person per night when that money could be going into providing other forms of emergency housing," said Ricardo Menéndez March.

Hotels and motels did not have the other services that long term homeless might need such as budgeting, medical or mental health support, Mr Menéndez March said.

Prefab homes could be built quickly and cheaply on public land and the government should invest in them instead, he said.

"A couple of builders could put a prefab house up in say less than two weeks which would provide an asset to the government and a form of emergency housing."

But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it would be irresponsible to not make use of motels and hotels because there was so much immediate need.

"That remains a very quick option and, in the time we had available, still remains on the table but of course there a number of other options we favour over that," she said.

Housing Minister Phil Twyford said of the 1500 extra housing places the government was delivering, 115 were long term motel stays.

They allowed for flexibilty if there was a spike in homelessness, particularly with winter approaching, he said,

"No one likes the idea of the government spending money to put people up in hotels but if we have to do that in order to ensure people have a roof over their heads we will," he said.