Maori Party calls for immediate rent freeze
The Maori Party is calling for a rent freeze to stop struggling families being forced onto the streets.
Co-leader Marama Fox has spent the past couple of weeks at the cross-party inquiry into homelessness, listening to hundreds of "absolutely heartbreaking" tales of how Kiwi families ended up without a roof above their heads.
"These are not people who are just desperate dropkicks. They are just struggling to meet the rent," Ms Fox told Paul Henry on Tuesday morning.
"Housing NZ have evicted people… to nowhere in particular. They're having to try and pay market rents - they can't pay the rent and end up on the streets."
With homelessness spreading from the big cities to the regions, Ms Fox says something needs to happen immediately, because it's taking too long to build enough houses to bring prices and rents down.
"We need a rent freeze in this country… Or at least a rent freeze for the tenure of your lease."
Less dramatically, she suggests Housing NZ rents could be frozen for parents while their kids are in school "so we don't get this transient behaviour that's going on".
The Maori Party has propped up the National Government since 2008, and Ms Fox says she does feel some responsibility for the problem. She even took in a homeless woman herself for 10 weeks, which ironically made the woman ineligible for emergency housing, under the Government's rules.
The woman found a place of her own after 10 weeks of looking.
"It wasn't difficult at all because the alternative was to say to her, 'Sorry - you're going to have to sleep in your car,'" says Ms Fox.
As well as a rent freeze, Ms Fox wants the Government to spend 10 times as much money on helping the homeless.
"Add a zero to all the money that we're spending on it."
More than 40,000 Kiwis are without a permanent home, according to census data and Otago University research.
National has denied an inquiry is needed, with Prime Minister John Key saying in June many homeless don't want help.