If you did not hear it you should listen to Paula Bennett’s interview on Radio New Zealand this morning if for no other reason to enjoy what happens when Government spin is undone.
It appears that repeated requests for an interview with a Housing Minister could no longer be avoided. After all the Government has three of them. Surely one of them had the time for a quick chat.
Some fascinating detail emerged and shows that the Government’s response to the housing crisis is somewhat less dramatic than the impression they are trying to create.
Espiner asked how many homeless there were. Bennett said 500 were on the Government’s wait list. Talk about not measuring the problem. And if there are this number then why doesn’t the Government solve the problem. Overnight.
Of course the reality is there are many more people homeless than this. People who have given up trying to find work and keep up with an increasingly hostile WINZ and its ludicrous requirements and have just opted out. People who are working but cannot afford rents that are increasingly out of control.
Bennett confirmed that $41 million over 4 years is promised as a new spend. When asked if she will bring it forward she said it would be brought forward as soon as she can and that it represents 3,000 beds and will make a huge difference.
Espiner then nailed Bennett with a question about “new beds”.
He asked Bennett if the 3,000 beds the Government has been talking about were new houses that the Government is building.
Bennett said the funds going to go to existing providers such as City Mission, Lifewise, the Salvation Army and other organisations that provide emergency beds basically to keep existing beds available.
The Government is funding agencies to make sure they keep current beds available. The hope is, a la trickledown, that doing this will mean that new beds will magically appear.
Espiner commented that they are not new beds. Bennett agreed but claimed that they would be used to help fund new beds. Somehow.
Espiner then pointed out that the Government propaganda has continuously talked about “new beds” and that all that is happening is the Government is treading water.
And it is true that the Government has continued to talk about “new beds”.
Like this press release from the Minister:
Our Government made a commitment to provide better access to emergency housing for our most vulnerable citizens. Emergency housing providers told us accessing funding to provide these places was difficult so now, for the first time, emergency housing will have ongoing, dedicated funding,” Mrs Bennett says.
The bulk of the $41.1 million of new operating funding will be used in two ways:
- The Ministry of Social Development will contract NGOs to provide about 3000 emergency housing places each year.
- A new emergency housing Special Needs Grant to support individuals and families with the cost of emergency housing for up to seven days if they are unable to access a contracted place.
The new places will be available to anyone who can demonstrate they have a genuine need for emergency housing.
The dividend from Housing New Zealand is $118 million this year. Bennett was asked why this money could not be poured into the construction of new houses. Essentially the answer was that the Government is more committed to continue the subsidy paid to private landlords via the accommodation supplement than it is to providing state owned social housing.
The Government’s basic problem is that for totally doctrinaire reasons it is stopping Housing Corporation from increasing its social housing stock and is instead providing funding to private providers. To keep existing beds available. In the hope that new beds will appear.
In the midst of a housing crisis the Government is refusing to do something meaningful for ideological reasons. Shame on it.