8 Jun 2016

Govt considers pre-purchasing motel rooms for homeless

5:24 pm on 8 June 2016

The government is considering pre-purchasing motel rooms to help people in the most critical need of housing, Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett says.

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Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett said if the government pre-purchased 100 places in motels, "we would easily fill them in a week". Photo: 123rf

Currently, Work and Income loans people money to rent out a motel room as emergency housing, when there is nowhere else to put them.

Mrs Bennett appeared before the Social Services Select Committee this morning.

She told MPs a lot of work was being done around putting people up in motels or boarding houses if they were stuck for accommodation.

Paula Bennett addresses the select committee.

Mrs Bennett addresses the Social Services Select Committee. Photo: RNZ/ Chris Bramwell

"We've been looking at, should we almost pre-purchase in some motels. We've got a report that's just come in yesterday morning - that we are looking at that, if that just gets us through particularly this winter period, and it's something we could do relatively quickly, being in the next two to three weeks."

People taking up the rooms might also not have to pay back the money.

Mrs Bennett was questioned by Labour MP Carmel Sepuloni about whether she had collated the data on how much the government had spent on emergency motel accommodation to date.

She replied that she had not. "Because that sits on the individual's case, not an aggregate if you like."

Carmel Sepuloni

Carmel Sepuloni Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

Ms Sepuloni asked how the government would be able to determine how much money would be required for the pre-purchasing of the motels, if they had not collated the data.

Mrs Bennett replied that the government knew how many people were sleeping rough or did not have places to go.

"So it would be safe to assume that if we pre-purchased 100 places in motels we would easily fill them in a week."

Labour's housing spokesperson Phil Twyford was not impressed with the idea.

"This is the National government running up the white flag, they are declaring defeat," he said.

"This is a failed housing policy, when the minister comes along to select committee and says she is bulk-booking motels for homeless people."

Mrs Bennett also revealed today that 130 people had expressed an interest in taking up the government's cash offer to leave Auckland for $5000.

But she said it was early days and there was no information about where those people wanted to relocate to as yet.