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Government’s plan for housing crisis: tread water

Written By: - Date published: 9:42 am, May 18th, 2016 - 54 comments
Categories: benefits, housing, national, paula bennett, same old national, welfare - Tags:

John Key Paula Bennett

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.

54 comments on “Government’s plan for housing crisis: tread water ”

  1. Sabine 1

    providing money to private Landlords overcharging on rotting, mouldy, drafty, leaking and otherwise substandard house is not a problem to National its how National makes money.

    Our taxes, are used to enrich people that at the same time fight any attempt to bring residential rental properties in to the 21st century.

    So to all that say, if we force Landlords to fix their leaking roofs, to fit insulation and double glazed windows would result in higher rents, I give you the National Party answer, no worries mate, we pay a higher Accomodation supplement. Cause we can’t have landlords loose money. Now that would cut into the National Party base and funding.

    fuck these two geezers on that pictures are about the vilest creatures this universe has brought forth.

    • millsy 1.1

      The accomodation supplement is completely inadequate anyway. I’m pretty sure it only exists for accounting purposes, because it barely covers any rent.

      • G C 1.1.1

        The Accommodation Supplement is just a subsidy to landlords ensuring their mortgage payments are met. The Government is now subsiding the motel industry too.

        • AsleepWhileWalking

          The Accommodation Supplement when combined with a tax regime to support landlords is an unmitigated disaster and encourages exploitation.

        • Onda Roadagain

          And anyway the Accom Supplement is inaccessible if savings above $8,000. That’s why Im using my Super for food and petrol rather than rent.

  2. Open mike 2

    In this, as in other areas, National continues to contradict its own spin. Classically, within the last fortnight PM Key has rejected the findings of a reputable study on the inadequacy of reporting on the fish catch but he and ministers larch onto data that is palpably false when presented concerning overseas purchasing of houses and the extent of the homelessness. They can’t keep blaming previous administrations for the tsunami of evidence gathering to highlight their incompetence during the last 8 years.

    • Sabine 2.1

      well its not only the current government that would blame the previous government.

      there are enough peeps here that would blame Labour for anything that has gone wrong during the National regime.

      as the saying goes in the US, only liberalism can fail, conservatism is failed.

      I just find it funny, how no one seems to fault the Jenny Shipley government.

      • WILD KATIPO 2.1.1

        I think it is more accurate to say it is a failure of successive neo liberal govts. Doesn’t matter if they claim they are left or right or somewhere in the middle – if they are neo liberals – the social rot we see today is always going to be the same outcome.

        Just at various speeds and at various degrees – depending on how much the population opposes them.

  3. Penny Bright 3

    “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. ”

    STATE housing is PUBLIC.

    SOCIAL housing is PRIVATE.

    Do you agree Mickey Savage?

    Yes or no?

    If yes – why are you referring to Housing Corporation ‘increasing social housing stock’ instead of STATE housing stock?

    Penny Bright
    2016 Auckland Mayoral candidate.

    • indiana 3.1

      I take it that you also agree that if Sate Housing is Public, that the government has the right to move state tenants to ensure they allocate housing according to circumstances. For example, an elderly couple can be moved from a 4 bedroom house to a 1 bedroom apartment so that the 4 bedroom house can be given to a family in need.

      Do you also agree that state housing tenants should not expect to have state house for life – that there is an expectation that they will endeavour to break their dependence on welfare?

      • Treetop 3.1.1

        Down sizing does not increase a home, it just makes better use of a resource.

        Reducing over crowding is a good thing. I do think that over crowding would occur in a bigger HNZ property in the more urgent housing areas.

        The country is 20,000 HNZ properties short. When a person is turfed out of a HNZ home they still need to be housed and able to afford market rent. The government are playing musical chairs with the state housing stock.

      • Stuart Munro 3.1.2

        Moving tenants should be possible but not frequent – if the number of occupants decreases, after three months or so a move to a smaller unit might be encouraged.

        It should be a house for life because the government should be creating jobs and building houses so that housing corp tenants can buy their current properties without decreasing the stock. In fact, HC tenants should be the only ones who can buy state houses. The object is an adequately housed secure society, not a buffet for real estate speculators.

        The current government is moving them out to under bridges – it is disgraceful and pitifully incompetent even by the abyssmal standards Key is trying to normalise.

        There must be no housing allowances for MPs while kiwis are sleeping on the streets.

        • Treetop

          HNZ have 1500 people on the transfer list, the government cannot even manage the transfers.

          I do think that when Labour are the next government there will be enormous change in state housing for the better.

          Change for those renting privately also needs to be a priority, (42% of homes in Auckland are rentals).

          Immigration and the rental market for landlords are votes for National.

      • greywarshark 3.1.3

        Can you break your dependence on critiquing Penny Bright as the mainstay of your existence?

        Poor people and rich people tend to be dependent on having a house as their regular accommodation, perhaps a suitable apartment as alternative, and it is always going to be too expensive to buy and in some places to rent for the poor, and welfare may be needed all their life for this purpose. Rich people can buy a cheap house easily, those who are stretched financially are usually buying something big in an exclusive, quiet neighbourhood near to amenities, school.

        To cover your points about what state housing should be provided for whom, the answer is the housing should be adequate and near transport and amenities so they are accessible, if elderly near hospital, GP, and for families with young children they should be near a suitable public school, and where they are part of a neighbourhood they know and are supported in.

      • AsleepWhileWalking 3.1.4

        It’s not always possible to downsize – if someone has a disability and requires a specific type of home you can easily end up as a single person in a 3brm house.

        I expect that now allocation and provision of housing is being handed off that disabled people with specific needs will be left out. Good luck finding housing in the private market that is anywhere near affordable because it IS NOT THERE.

    • mickysavage 3.2



      I am using the phrase “social housing” to include houses owned by Housing Corporation. Just to be clear I believe that Housing Corp should increase the amount of housing that it owns.

      • Richard Christie 3.2.1

        I agree with PB’s obvious sentiment .
        Social Housing is a mealy mouthed term often used to blur distinctions between State housing (publicly owned) and private sector housing ostentatiously meeting some sort of magical “social” criteria or objective .

  4. millsy 4

    Quite frankly, we *DO* have the resources to provide everyone with a roof over their head at a reasonable rent. We also have the materials, ability and the nous. And what’s more, it doesnt have to break the bank.

    For example, I go on trademe, there are tiny houses, sheds, and modified containers that can be converted into viable accomodation.

    Presland is right, this is only for ideological reasons, both Freidmanite and Calvinistic,

    • TC 4.1

      If we didnt have a commcomm rubber stamped oligopoly in building supplies $41m would build hundereds of goid quality homes.

  5. TC 5

    Great to hear espiner growing a pair, cant be long before griffin realigns the morning slot.

  6. Heather Tanguay 6

    Penny Bright is correct this is State Housing, no other fancy names
    Paula Bennett should
    Today cease all sales of state housing
    Tomorrow Fill all empty habitable state houses
    Next week start repairing those that are left and get families off the street, out of garages, containers and sheds
    Ffs Paula, it is not difficult, come on give it a try

    • SARAH 6.1

      100% agree. Their ideology seems to get in the way of common sense. Even Muldoon looked after those in low paid jobs or those struggling to get a job. (remember the rent/wage/price freeze?) This is total madness and an indictment on the whole lot of National MP’s for sitting on the back benches doing and saying absolutely nothing.

  7. Macro 7

    But Mickey ! If Bill doesn’t get the 180mill dividend from HCNZ how can he have a “balanced budget”? And if he doesn’t balance the books – how can John get his $3 Bill tax cut for him and his mates!? You really have to think about the 1%ers here. As Wayne says they are suffering from some creepy thing.

    • mickysavage 7.1


      Talk of a tax cut at this time of crisis is so obscene …

      • Macro 7.1.1

        Ackshully Micky, muddle New Zeelunders are pretty relaxed about that sorta talk – just like me! hehehe they luved me peein in the shower an lookin for the soap! It’s all a bit of banter. Look – at the end of the day – It’s all good – nothing to worry about.

        • Cowboy

          An interesting aside of events over the last few days is how reliant the Nats are Key to keep the public perception of the wheels being on. Ministers Smith, Guy and Bennett have been simply awful fronting media on serious issues within their portfolios.
          With English out on pre budget duties the Nats are looking pretty threadbare.

  8. Richardrawshark 8

    I lived homeless for many years as a youth. In Auckland There is something about it.. I didn’t really need to, I could have gone home, it was the comarderie, we were there against the powers rebels living rough, stealing getting wasted, us against *THEM*

    so There is that aspect.

    There were also genuine cases where housing was inappropriate, they were just to gone, mentally, or addiction wise. Last thing they needed was a house what they needed was substance abuse treatment.

    Then there’s the genuine cases, like whats happening now, where rent prices push people out.

    However, there are homes here in the waikato and elsewhere in the country.

    I suggest more information on the issue, I think this is handy for us, to use as political ammunition, but how do you really fix the problem?

    We need to get more people out of Auckland is one of the issues and to dieing regional NZ.

    We also need work and services to follow them.

    Government has a much bigger tool kit than what I can do.. We need to focus on restructuring our biggest city and spreading the load nationwide. I think government may need to just do unpopular things to achieve whats been required for 20 odd years.

    Government is their to direct the Nationa not stand by and let market forces pile up in Auckland and suffocate the place. Government has a job. Sometimes popular sometimes not. One day labour and National will grow a pair and start doing whats right not what’s popular for the baubles of office.

    perhaps that sounds harsh. If so, it was aimed at honest thinking not harshness.

    PS there are many reasons for living on the street MANY, it’s not something you could pigeon hole into one or two things. I met many people on the street each one seemed to have their own personal story, if they bothered to share or talk about it.

    • b waghorn 8.1

      Great post from someone who knows what he’s talking about.

      The only thin I’d change is that the work and services have to lead the people back to regional areas instead of

      “We also need work and services to follow them.”

  9. dukeofurl 9

    I know of a large house not far from me, which was owned by government agency,but used by a service providing rehab. That closed over 8 years ago.
    Been empty ever since. Would have suited a lot of service providers.

    • Anno1701 9.1

      “Been empty ever since”

      it should be squatted !

      • indiana 9.1.1

        If the site is big enough, demolish the house and build 4 2 bedroom town houses to increase the state housing stock.

  10. AmaKiwi 10

    To MPs of the Labour, Green, New Zealand First, and Maori parties.

    This is NOT a housing crisis. It is a MORAL crisis.

    It is immoral to give tax cuts to the wealthy and welfare to businesses while children are cold, hungry, malnourished, and living in subhuman shelters.

    It is immoral to permit landlords to rent dilapidated properties they can’t sell because they are completely substandard.

    Say it! “This is an immoral government.”

  11. joe90 11

    Beat the drum long enough and loud enough.

    Next month, media organizations in the Bay Area are planning to put aside their rivalries and competitive instincts for a day of coordinated coverage on the homeless crisis in the city. The Chronicle, which is leading the effort, is dispensing with traditional news article formats and will put forward possible solutions to the seemingly intractable plight of around 6,000 people without shelter.


    The premise of the effort is to create a “wave” of coverage that will force politicians to come up with solutions, Ms. Cooper said.

    “You will not be able to log onto Facebook, turn on the radio, watch TV, read a newspaper, log onto Twitter without seeing a story about the causes and solutions to homelessness,” she said.


  12. Treetop 12

    I was pleased to hear RNZ raise the connection between family violence and housing. A mother of 5 (ages 3 – 16) left an abusive home, this has resulted in the mother and 4 children sleeping in a car. I heard the desperation in the mothers voice, having to find a safe place to park the car and how vulnerable sleeping in a car is. The 16 year old has a temporary place to stay.

    The mother turned down a HNZ dwelling because it was around the corner from her ex partners mothers home. HNZ kicked her off the list for not taking the property, the mother is now back on the waiting list.

    I nearly raised the connection between family violence and the shortage of suitable affordable accommodation last night.

    The domestic purposes benefit was introduced so people had an income which enabled a parent to flee domestic violence.

    Under this government family violence is increasing due to the shortage of affordable housing, children are being exposed to violence. (There are other reasons for the increase of family violence to).

    UNACCEPTABLE that family violence is increasing because of a shortage of affordable housing.

  13. Gangnam Style 13

    Woah, great interview~! I think Bennett forgot she was the associate finance minister! She gets quite angry too. Social housing a big weak spot for National.

  14. greywarshark 14

    A good street theatre would be to build a wall of shoe boxes with a narrow alley to the government office door (Housing NZ obviously best but any department would do), that anyone visiting it would have to follow, or knock down the wall of boxes which would be destruction of property, even vandalism!

    The message would be that there is a need for a real house for each of those shoe boxes, and that government does not even provide cardboard houses for ordinary people. Also have DVDs playing of Monty Python’s satire of the Four Yorkshiremen making up stories about their own rise from dire poverty which was worse than anything felt by the young people today .

    It is satirical because it totally denies the real stories of needy people in favour of jokes and hyperboly and derision, which is the likely attitude from most people in NZ.

    I was shocked at how uncaring the community were when Nats were originally introducing market rents for state houses eating into their pensions, or uplifting people who had an extra bedroom and shifting them away from their own neighbourhoods near known people and services. There was a noticeable lack of outrage or concern from those not affected. ‘We’re all right, too bad about them.’

  15. Alan 15

    Phil Twyford talking sense today, calling for abolition of Auckland city residential boundary

    • Richardrawshark 15.1

      Put a ban on all industrial development for 30 years in Auckland and force these big companies to wellington, Christchurch etc. People follow jobs?

    • dukeofurl 15.2

      Speculators will just grab the land and hold it for 20 years like they allways do.

      Most of the city fringe was chopped into lifestyle blocks years ago, it would have been 5 or 10ha then , now its down to 1 ha in most places.
      Impossible to make economic subdivisions and even harder to make house lots as there is no sewage/fresh water infrastructure to support it.

  16. Richardrawshark 16

    It starts when all addictions are treated with the seriousness that the damage they cause does and deserves prioritising correctly . Until we can class it as a health issue and force people in to treatment the sooner we can get these people back on track and start eliminating the causes of poverty, homelessness etc, one by one.

    JAI -Just an idea

  17. Gangnam Style 17

    $1330 a week for staying at a hotel? I doubt they get that much in their benefits.

    • Gangnam Style 17.1

      My mistake, $1300+ for ’emergency housing’ which you have to pay back.

    • dukeofurl 17.2

      Thats crazy, plenty of motels will take longer stays at a reduced rate.

      • Gangnam Style 17.2.1

        Apparently to spend a week at the Langham is $1300, I did half hear on the radio justifying why the shithole motels were able to charge so much was because of their reputation of housing the ‘undesirables’.

  18. srylands 18


    I assume that Phil was duly authorised to launch this policy. It is the best idea I have seen from Labour in the last 8 years. At last a policy from Labour that will make a real difference to housing supply.

    I urge you all to sign the petition urging the Government to adopt the policy.

    • Sabine 18.1

      you are urging us to urge the national led government adopt a Labour policy?

      sorry mate,
      but that is funny.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 18.2

      You subscribe to the hate speech, eh S Rylands – you pay lip service to the notion that the poor and homeless are the authors of their own misfortune.

      What is it about the National Party that so many more people make bad choices whenever they’re in government?

      Spite? A Lefty plot? Something you can’t bring yourself to think about let alone admit?

      • AmaKiwi 18.2.1

        @ One Anonymous Bloke

        “What is it about the National Party that so many more people make bad choices whenever they’re in government?”


        The first rule of politics is “Get Elected.” People who are expert at getting elected (big egos) are not necessarily good at governing or making good decisions for their people. This applies to all parties.

        Our present system is personality politics, not issue oriented. It is fundamentally flawed.

    • AB 18.3

      Supply cannot be increased until demand is permanently curtailed. Otherwise speculators will grab most of the new houses, the banks will pump more ex nihilo ‘credit’ into the system, and the problem will get worse.
      This is because the tax advantages of speculation make the demand almost limitless, and it will always overwhelm minor increases in supply.

      “A fat man eating quails while children are begging for bread is a disgusting sight, but you are less likely to see it when you are within the sound of the guns” (George Orwell).

  19. Anne 19

    John Campbell and RNZ team hit the jackpot again. Great reporting. Why can’t the rest of the MSM do it eh? What’s wrong with them? Don’t have the guts?


    • AsleepWhileWalking 19.1

      Hey…Campbell is not what I’d call MSM!

      WTF? And they made this recoverable? This should be the top article on TS. Nice find Anne.

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