Housing crisis: Tens of thousands homeless

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - APRIL 16:  Homeless person sleeping on a park bench at Victoria Park, Auckland.  (Photo by Dean Purcell/Getty Images)

There are more than 44,000 people living without a home in New Zealand -- equivalent to entire population of Whanganui -- and it's only getting worse.

University of Otago researcher Dr Kate Amore says according to the 2001 census, the number of people in "severe housing deprivation" was one in 130 -- about 27,000 -- and in the 2006 census it was 1 in 120, or 34,000.

At the last census in 2013 it was one in 100, up more than 60 percent in 12 years. Assuming the trend has continued, there could now be nearly 50,000 Kiwis homeless.

Housing crisis: Tens of thousands homeless


"Homelessness is worsening in New Zealand in terms of both numbers and as a proportion of the population," Dr Amore says.

"This upward trend accelerated between the 2006 and 2013 censuses, compared with the 2001 and 2006 period."

If the homeless population was represented by 100 people, she says:

"They all urgently need affordable housing."

Housing crisis: Tens of thousands homeless


Labour leader Andrew Little says the figures are an "utter tragedy", considering it equates to a population the size of Whanganui.

"No New Zealander wants to see children growing up in these conditions. We are a better country than this."

The latest Statistics New Zealand figure puts the Whanganui district's population at 42,153.

He says money in last month's Budget for around 750 social housing places will mostly go to existing beds.

"That is woefully short of what is needed."

The Green Party says the figures show National's current approach is failing. Social housing spokeswoman Marama Davidson says the Government needs to completely change the way it is handling the situation.

She says an all-of-government approach is needed, including health, police and housing.

"Every single National minister needs to be asking themselves, 'What am I doing to address our housing crisis?' If they're not doing that, they're not doing their job."

The figures come after Prime Minister John Key said a government team of social service workers and the Salvation Army visited people living in cars in south Auckland.

Of the eight cars they visited at Bruce Pulman Park in Takanini on Monday night, none wanted help.

But that series of events has been disputed by the Salvation Army who said that never happened.

Housing crisis: Tens of thousands homeless


Ministry of Social Development hit Mangere and Otahuhu and visited 15 cars. All had single people sleeping in them, and only one chose to accept the Government's offer of help.

However, that person wasn't actually homeless.

The official report into the operation found most of those living in cars had jobs.

The university's figures are based on the definition of homelessness developed by Statistics New Zealand, Housing New Zealand and the Ministry of Social Development. They don't include those living in emergency housing, such as night shelters.