20 Feb 2019

State housing waitlist jumps by 5000 in a year

12:41 pm on 20 February 2019

The government has been told not to deflect the blame after announcing a rise of almost 5000 people seeking a state house.

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Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

The Minister of Housing and Urban Development Phil Twyford announced yesterday that 10,712 people were now on the housing register, up from 6182 a year earlier.

Mr Twyford said it was a symptom of what he called the hidden homeless, and said the previous government played a huge part in that figure.

"It was more than 10,000 in 2010, under the last National government, but what they did back then, in 2011, is they just cancelled the category C and D people off the waiting list," Mr Twyford said.

"The consequences of that were disastrous, because one car repair or dentist bill later and people found themselves coming back as a priority A or B … or they found themselves homeless."

Salvation Army policy analyst Alan Johnson said there should be no excuses.

He said the rise in people seeking state housing was expected and the government needed to do more.

"The outcome of 10,700 is predictable," Mr Johnson said.

"We said last year that we thought the private rental market was collapsing for low income households, and I think there's evidence that that's the case.

"We've also said that the government should be building 2000 to 2500 rental houses [and] state housing units a year. They've committed to 1600 so we're short already."

That was echoed by Auckland Action Against Poverty spokesperson Ricardo Menendez March.

He said the Labour government did inherit a broken housing system but that did not absolve it of blame when it came to the housing crisis.

"If we've got a housing waiting list that is increasing at a rate that is much faster than the homes that are being built, then I think what the government needs to be looking at its current development.

"One of the problems that they've got at the moment is … they're giving the least priority to state housing.

"Two-thirds of their current developments are for private housing."

Both Mr Johnson and Mr Menendez March said there was a cycle in place where Labour governments tried to build more homes and strengthen Housing New Zealand while National governments sold off the homes.

Mr Twyford admitted the government could do more to try and solve the social housing issues.

"But look, it's not easy. We're intervening in the market more wholeheartedly in housing than any government has in the last 40 years because the market is broken.

"It's not functioning properly and it needs a government that's willing to pick it up by the scruff of the neck and give it a really good shake."

Mr Twyford said the government was committed to ending homelessness and wanted to provide 1600 new houses each year over the next four years.

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