12 Sep 2016

'More money, more places' for homeless

8:31 pm on 12 September 2016

The government is defending its record on housing the homeless after figures revealed it was taking twice as long to find places for those desperately in need.

Figures obtained by the Labour Party show it is 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.

The government has refused to call the housing situation a "crisis", but Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett said last week she accepted the problem of chronic homelessness had become worse under its watch.

Prime Minister John Key has now acknowledged there has been an increase in the number of vulnerable people without a home.

"The rise in both rents and house prices, where they've had a more pronounced impact, have been on the most vulnerable. And that's why we've been responding with more money, and more places," he said.

The new figures, provided to Labour from written parliamentary questions, gave an "inaccurate picture" because people were often given emergency housing while they were waiting for permanent housing, Mr Key warned.

"In the first instance, for someone that's in a very distressed position, you know, a car or a tent, the very first thing is getting a roof over their head. It may not be a permanent solution, but we need to act as quickly as we practically can - I think we've been following that response pretty quickly," he said.

However, Labour leader Andrew Little said it was disgraceful that people were spending months and months without a permanent home.

"For some people, who move from being in a house to being homeless, that can happen reasonably quickly. There's always going to be a bit of a lag between when they then get to a stable home, that should be a matter of days and weeks, it shouldn't be months and months and months," he said.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said every single day that someone has to live in a car, or tent, was dire.

"They are still having to get their kids off to school every day, make sure they are well fed and have everything they need. Many of these families are working, so are themselves having to get to work and coming home to miserable conditions," she said.

The government said Housing New Zealand had on average 15 new places and an average of 150 people housed each week.

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