Homelessness: The Government 'needs to do more' - Auckland Mayor Phil Goff

Auckland's growing problem with homelessness has been described as a "crisis" at an Auckland Council meeting.

Recent figures estimate around 24,000 people across the city don't have adequate housing.

"You walk down the streets and you see more and more people sleeping in garages, doubled up in homes," says Auckland Mayor Phil Goff. "We are facing a crisis. We're not building enough houses; we're not building enough social houses, and of course we've got a growing problem such as mental illness that leads to more people sleeping rough."

On Tuesday Manurewa Local Board chairperson Angela Dalton called on the council to increase the supply of social and affordable housing in Auckland.

"It's taking a piece of land and not saying we're going to get top dollar for this piece of land so we can reinvest it in a transformation area. It's taking a piece of land and saying we're going to work with this social housing development provider and we're going to enable affordable housing."

But Mr Goff says that's a central Government responsibility and the council is doing what it can.

"It is a central Government responsibility but we are happy to work with them to collaborate to address one of the worst social issues actually that Auckland faces. The Council has obvious limitations in terms of income source; you need billions of dollars to provide social housing. You need a nationwide approach to affordable housing," says Mr. Goff.

He says the council is already funding a range of housing initiatives.

"The Council is already funding the Housing First initiative [$1 million], the James Liston Hostel [$2 million] and emergency housing coordination [$360,000]."

He says central Government needs to do more.

Councillor Efeso Collins told the meeting there's a growing problem with homelessness amongst Pacific people.

"Pacific people are 10 times more likely to be homeless than Pakeha, and 80,000 of Pacific people are in overcrowded homes, says Mr Collins.

"We're gentrifying a certain group out of society. There is a distinct group of people being left out and there is an ethnic component to this issue."

 Councillor Cathy Casey says there needs to be a national strategy and a target for ending homelessness in New Zealand.

But councillor John Watson believes Auckland Council needs to do more.

"It's a crisis. It's here now and I think Auckland Council needs to be a leader. We can have all the flash infrastructure in the world, but if we can't even look after our own people what does that say about us?"

Councillor Mike Lee believes the council should be able to do something "practical".

"It's a major problem and too big for us to solve on our own, but we can tackle some aspects of it.

"There is a clear need for an emergency night shelter. Most cities have them and I believe our council can fund one."

But Mr Goff says that's just a "temporary" solution.

"What the housing interest groups tell me is that they don't want more temporary solutions; they want more permanent solutions - giving people the ability to have houses that are stable, warm, healthy and a good place to raise families in. Emergency shelters don't meet that definition."