12 Sep 2016

Homeless waiting twice as long for state housing - Labour

10:12 am on 12 September 2016

It's now taking the government twice as long to find accommodation for homeless people as it was six months ago, the Labour Party says.

Figures obtained by the Labour Party show it's taking 217 days on average before a state housing place is found for people living in cars. That's up from just over 100 days at the end of last year.

Labour leader Andrew Little said it was getting harder and harder for government agencies to find homes for the growing number of homeless New Zealanders.

"The time taken by WINZ to house the seriously homeless - that is those who are living in garages, or in cars or under bushes - is now taking twice as long as it took even just a year ago.

"This seems to be because there are fewer state houses. We know there are 2500 fewer state houses than there were just a few years ago, but there's also more homeless people, and more chronically homeless people than we've had in a long long time," Mr Little said.

"At the end of 2015, it was taking the government 99 days on average to get people who had resorted to living in tents and in public places into housing. That has now increased to 157 days.

"We're just going to have to accept that the situation is now so bad, so chronically bad, nothing less than radical action by the government to address the housing issue for the seriously homeless is warranted," said Mr Little.

The People's Project has housed 127 people in just over a year.

It's now taking 157 days on average to find a home for people who resorted to living in tents and in public places. Photo: 123RF

Mr Little told Morning Report today the government's housing programme was a failure.

"The government has just boarded up a whole heap of state houses, they're waiting to sell them, and they've sold a heap more. So what they could do is the state houses that they have got which are boarded up, it doesn't take a lot of effort to get many of them to get ready for someone to live in, they can do that pretty smartly. Forget the state house sell-off, and get on with building more houses that you can get more homeless people into."

Government figures show the number of people living in their cars and tents and in public places is on the rise too.

New Zealand First's housing spokesperson Denis O'Rourke said it was a direct result of the wider housing crisis.

"This is the end result of the government's own failures in housing and now they're failing to even offer alternatives for the worst off people, and that's absolutely disgraceful in my view."

Mr O'Rourke said Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett was failing New Zealanders in need.

"It couldn't be more obvious, Paula Bennett is not on top of her portfolio, she has no real idea what to do at all, and under her watch you see the problem getting worse and worse and worse."

Mrs Bennett declined to be interviewed for this story but in a statement said the government's Social Housing reform programme was on track.

"There is absolutely no need for people to remain living in insecure housing," the statement said. "If they go to Work and Income, options will be discussed with them and if there are no emergency housing beds available they can be offered a non-recoverable grant to pay for accommodation," the statement said.

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