Findings of cross-party homelessness inquiry released

Findings of cross-party homelessness inquiry released

Labour, the Green Party and the Māori Party are calling on the Government to take action against homelessness in New Zealand, following a cross-party inquiry.

The parties heard from hundreds of submitters across the country to get an idea of the extent of homelessness, and have set out 20 recommendations in their report Ending Homelessness in New Zealand.

The report estimates that homelessness is costing the Government up to $250 million a year. 

The recommendations include:

Labour Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford called for a nationwide roll-out of the Housing First approach, which he said is a "gold standard internationally". This approach involves providing secure, permanent housing first and then putting in the wrap-around services that are needed.

In Canada, the cost of the programme is estimated at $15,000 per person, which would mean a seven-fold increase in the current government spending on emergency housing. 

The parties recommend a build programme to increase the number of state and community homes by 1000 a year until demand is met. 

"We can fix this homelessness crisis, the policy solutions are all there in this report" Mr Twyford said.

"The solutions are not complicated but they require a Government with the political will to make ending homeless a priority".

The chairman of Te Puea Marae, which opened its doors to the homeless over winter, said he'd seen homelessness affect a cross-section of society.

"They all came with a wide range of issues and they absolutely blew us all away. We were quite used to rough sleepers…but these were mums and dads and kids in fact, we'd never know who they are between the hours of 8 and 4," Hurimoana Dennis said.

The Auckland marae became the meeting point for social services and the homeless to get them back onto their feet and into homes.

Mr Dennis says they managed to get 130 people and families into homes, flats or lodgings.

That was the easy part, he says.

"For many reasons, whanau just kept coming, kept coming, kept coming. While they all came with their own issues - overcrowding, eviction, below the poverty line - bureaucracy and poor decision making seemed to be a key theme that kept popping their heads up."

The report found that while there'd been a level of homelessness for some time, "there has been a substantial increase in recent years driven by a lack of affordable housing".

"We know now how to fix this problem. The ball is now in National's court. Will they act or will they continue to bury their heads in the sand?" Labour Party leader Andrew Little said. 

"The Government must build more affordable houses, reduce the cost of building a home, and tackle property speculation if we are to end homelessness" Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said.

"To end homelessness we need a clear national strategy, which includes all sectors and sets out the action that the Government will take", Māori Party Co-Leader Marama Fox said.