Few homeless able to take up offer - expert

Opposition parties and NGOs have heaped scorn on Paula Bennett's plans (Getty)
Opposition parties and NGOs have heaped scorn on Paula Bennett's plans (Getty)

The Government's being told there's no point in paying homeless people $5000 to leave Auckland if there's no support available to them where they end up.

On Wednesday Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett announced a $750,000 plan to get homeless people and others waiting for state housing out of Auckland and into the regions. "Flying squads" of social workers would also be sent out to inform homeless people about the policy, and ensure they're registered and eligible for the payments.

The plan, revealed a day before the Budget, took Finance Minister Bill English by surprise. He and Prime Minister John Key have hinted there will be money in the Budget set aside to tackle housing, but it's not the primary focus.

Opposition parties and NGOs heaped scorn on Ms Bennett's plans, with Auckland Action Against Poverty saying it showed "panicked desperation" and Labour calling it a "scrambled, desperate announcement".

Mangere Budgeting Services Trust chief executive Darryl Evans says it's not a long-term fix, and conflicts with Work and Income policy not to pay benefits to people moving to small-town New Zealand without realistic job prospects.

Mr Evans is also surprised to hear the Government wants people to move to places like Huntly and Ngaruawahia, where there is no shortage of poverty already.

"When we're applying for state houses in lots of parts of the country we're told that they're all full. It's nice to know there are some empty," he told Paul Henry.

"It does surprise me that there are empty state houses in places like Huntly in Ngaruawahia, which is where we deliver food parcels to on many a weekend. Need down there is also at an all-time high. It surprises me there are no people on the Housing NZ waiting list down there."

While some will be happy take the $5000, Mr Evans says most won't -- or simply can't.

"Many will not leave their immediate family, because they are the ones giving them the support -- they're looking after their kids while they go into part-time jobs, they're looking after the kids while mum does the shopping."

The only long-term solution in his view is to build more social housing where the job opportunities are.

"Every person in this country knows that it's not acceptable for children to be sleeping in the back of cars, so we absolutely need to accelerate the building of state houses."

The Government's focus has been on opening up land and letting the market fill in the gaps, but building progress has been slow and few of the homes being built are affordable for anyone but investors, let alone beneficiaries or the homeless.

Mr Evans says even if the expected 150 families take up the $5000 offer, that leaves thousands still without homes.