Labour: No new beds in emergency housing fund

A homeless man keeps warm in the doorway of a central city shop in Auckland (Getty)
A homeless man keeps warm in the doorway of a central city shop in Auckland (Getty)

Labour says the Government's emergency housing plan will just redefine existing permanent stock as temporary, without actually increasing the number of beds available.

The Government plans to spend $41 million over the next four years on emergency housing and grants, contracting agencies to provide places. Grants will also be available to help families for up to a week if they can't get one of those spots.

While the funding has been welcomed by shelter operators, who say it will give them some certainty around costs, none of the money will be spent on adding to the country's housing stock.

"There's going to 3000 more emergency beds taken from existing beds. It doesn't add up," Labour deputy leader Annette King said on Paul Henry on Friday.

"They are the same beds, they've just got a new name. Once you've finished your time in the emergency housing, you've got to get into a house -- so you've taken 3000 houses out of the supply to make them emergency, but you haven't added to it. It's one plus two making four."

The Greens have suggested letting Housing New Zealand use its dividend to build new houses, rather than having to pay it to the Government.

The Government says it already is building new state houses, and evicting people who don't need to be in one.

"We're moving people out in tenancy reviews so we're freeing up those that shouldn't be in social housing so those that are in cars can get up," says Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett.

"We're talking about moving some to where we've got empty houses where Auckland's kind of full. Every time we do that we get screams and shouts that we shouldn't be moving people, where there's people in houses that shouldn't be there and should be freed up for people for those that are living in cars."

She also says Auckland's special housing areas, where some of the homes built have to be "affordable", will increase the country's housing stock. But after three years only 700 new homes have built on the 48,000 sections, with owners instead opting to land-bank and reap the capital gains.

Both Labour and National have decided the solution is to open up Auckland's urban boundaries.

"It requires the building of more houses, it requires more land, it requires more up -- as we've said -- and more out. It needs action," says Ms King.

Ms Bennett says some of the city's limits, set by Auckland Council, are "pretty arbitrary".

Housing Minister Nick Smith says he has written to some landowners, telling them to "get on" with building houses or he'll withdraw their land's special housing area status.