16 May 2018

Housing providers struggle to meet skyrocketing demand

3:18 pm on 16 May 2018

The number of people asking for help finding a home is skyrocketing, and the coalition government is under renewed pressure to deliver on its promises to see every New Zealander with a roof over their head.

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The public housing waiting list has gone up 26 percent in three months from December 2017 to March this year, which Mr Twyford said was the result of a change in government. Photo: RNZ

Labour was heavily critical of the previous government last winter, when it was revealed families were living out of garages and cars in the coldest months.

It has now been revealed the public housing waiting list has gone up 26 percent in three months from December 2017 to March this year.

The waiting list has nearly doubled in size in two years, and there are now nearly nearly 8000 families, couples and individuals in need of accommodation.

It was not just the government's own recorded waiting lists that were increasing in numbers. A southern community housing provider, Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust, was also feeling the squeeze.

The trust's chief executive Julie Scott said their waiting list had shot up.

"It's completely in line with what we're seeing in terms of our own housing waiting list. We've got a waiting list of over 500 households now, seeking some form of assistance from us," she said.

The trust has 19 sites in the region, making its special housing portfolio bigger than the government's state housing one.

Ms Scott would like to see greater investment in state housing in the region, and said she was keen to work with the government on its KiwiBuild programme to help fix the real problem - that there were not enough houses.

National Party leader Simon Bridges said new housing minister Phil Twyford was taking too long and stalling the good work that was already underway to fix the problem.

"We were doing a huge amount, whether it was in special housing, social housing, emergency housing - or just the residential building boom."

However, Mr Twyford said the waiting list had increased due to the change in government.

He said people were coming forward now there was a government in charge that admitted there was a problem, and a need to fix it. He pointed to the Housing Stocktake report, which he commissioned when Labour first took over.

The report stated the crisis would probably get worse, before it got better.

"They talked about a hidden homelessness that's been out there. High levels of over-crowding, people not coming forward because they didn't think there was any realistic hope of getting help," Mr Twyford said.

"It's going to take a while, we've inherited a social and economic crisis, and it's going to take a while to fix it."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she was adamant her government would fix it.

She said the government had already put a halt on the sale of state houses since taking office, and that another announcement was imminent.

"We'll be making announcements on what we're doing on state housing in the Budget. But needless to say that's one of the reasons why we've doubled the amount of emergency housing that we've made available this winter, additional emergency housing, because we know that need is so great," she said.

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