Govt to help fund Auckland homeless to move

Govt to help fund Auckland homeless to move

Bill English has been caught off guard by a policy announcement that includes a $5000 grant for homeless Aucklanders to move out of the city.

"I don't know what you're referring to, to be honest," he said when asked about the announcement made by Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett.

After the policy was explained to him by media, the Finance Minister confirmed it had been discussed but he couldn't recall the process followed.

"Well I wasn't aware of the announcement today but that's not a big deal. I'm not aware of a lot of announcements."

Meanwhile Ms Bennett defended the announcement saying the portfolio was her responsibility.

"Oh well he's not the Minister of Social Housing, I am. So it's my job to look after the tenants and this is what I do," she said.

The $5000 grant would apply to anyone currently in a state house or on the waiting list, including those who are retired.

They would be voluntarily moved into areas like Lower Hutt, Ngaruawahia, and Huntly.

Ms Bennett says those willing to move will either be relocated into another Housing NZ home or a private rental that could be offset with an accommodation supplement.

"The $5000 will depend on the size of the family and where they're going, so obviously if they're going further distances or they've got a big family then we think that could be the cost. But for some it could be as low as $1000 because it's someone that's in Auckland and moving to Hamilton," she said.

The announcement comes following public outcry over families including young children being forced to sleep in cars due to growing housing pressure.

The Government also said it would be sending out a specialist team over the next few nights to approach people who are homeless and sleeping in cars in a bid to provide much needed support.   

The Ministry of Social Development will team up with NGOs to execute the plan.

A Newshub investigation earlier this month revealed families who are forced to live in cars as a result of soaring rent prices. It also showed rent for three-bedroom homes increased in Auckland by 25 percent from 2010 to 2015.

Ms Bennett says she hopes to gain better analysis of what the situation is and look at what else can be done.

"[We'll] approach those people that are sleeping in cars, check if they are on the social housing register. If they're not, why not? And what else can we do to help them," she said. 

The Government has also announced a $5000 grant to help those who want to move out of Auckland. 

The grant would apply to anyone currently in a state house or on the waiting list, including those who are retired.

They would be moved into areas like Lower Hutt, Ngaruawahia, and Huntly. 

Ms Bennett says those willing to move will either be relocated into another Housing NZ home or a private rental that could be offset with an accommodation supplement.

"The $5000 will depend on the size of the family and where they're going, so obviously if they're going further distances or they've got a big family then we think that could be the cost. But for some it could be as low as $1000 because it's someone that's in Auckland and moving to Hamilton," she said.

Labour leader Andrew Little has labelled it a desperate bid to play catch up.

"The Government has been so out of touch for so long on chronic housing problems now they've suddenly woken up the day before the Budget and realised they've completely missed the boat and they better look as if they’re doing something," he said.

He says people outside Auckland are already on housing waiting lists, so an influx to the regions would only increase pressure elsewhere. 

The Green Party says the plan is short-sighted and shows the Government is under pressure over the housing problem.

"While moving out of Auckland might work for some people without a home, it’s not going to be practicably possible for many of them, and we're still going to have thousands of people living in garages, cars and on the streets," co-leader Metiria Turei says.

"This is another short-term housing half-measure from the Government, done more for appearance than for effect."

She says the answer is not to move people away, but build more state homes.

Newshub.

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