8 Dec 2015

Doubts social housing scheme will meet demand

8:21 am on 8 December 2015

A new scheme to house people in most desperate need in Auckland has been criticised as far from a real solution.

Part of a housing development in the Tamaki area in Auckland.

$10m will go to housing groups to build new dwellings or take over existing private rentals. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

The government yesterday announced $10 million would go to five agencies to build new housing or take over existing private rentals in the country's most expensive place to live.

The Salvation Army, IHC, the Chinese New Settlers Trust and two agencies yet to be finalised will find places for 500 people in west and south Auckland over the next one to two years. They will be eligible for income-related rent subsidies for up to 25 years. About two thirds of the total will be provided by the IHC-owned Accessible Properties.

Darryl Evans, chief executive of the Mangere Budgeting Services Trust, said $10m sounded like a lot of money but was, in reality, a drop in the bucket.

"It's a really good place to start, but one of the things that we've seen is absolutely an increase in the number of pensioners coming to us because they're unable to sustain private rentals.

"Many of them are desperate to get into pensioner complexes with Housing New Zealand and with councils that are still doing pensioner houses."

Also as part of the new scheme, the Salvation Army will receive $1m to build 50 housing units specifically for older people in Auckland's Royal Oak. The units will accomodate 67 people aged 55 and over.

Salvation Army social policy analyst Alan Johnson said the project was woefully inadequate to meet demand, given the army's estimate that tens of thousands of baby boomers risked homelessness in old age.

"The Salvation Army will struggle to repeat this as an ongoing thing. There are very few NGOs of the scale of the Salvation Army who are presently engaged in housing.

"So it's highly unlikely that unless there's a significant increase in the funding for projects such as this, that we'll see many more of them."

Director of Community Housing Aoteroa, Scott Figenshow, said there were many other housing groups which had put forward proposals.

"While we don't know exactly the nature of all of those proposals ... we do wonder if price is still not one of the concerns.

"And we would have thought that it's in the government's best interests to be purchasing pretty much all of the units that the community housing sector can deliver to it."

The system needed to work more efficiently to meet demand. "Because if it's going to take another year to purchase another thousand units, we're not meeting the needs of families. We need to be able to do this in a way that works a lot more simply and straightforward."

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