Govt put on notice over homelessness

Govt put on notice over homelessness

The cost of homelessness to the taxpayer has been revealed as just over a quarter of a billion dollars each year.

It's estimated each homeless person costs around $65,000, and with 4200 rough sleepers across the country that's a bill to the taxpayer of more than $250 million per year.

A cross-party inquiry into homelessness by Labour, the Greens and the Māori Party has produced a report outlining 20 recommendations. They include:

The homelessness problem is getting worse. There are around 40,000 New Zealanders classed as homeless, which includes rough sleepers, people staying with friends and family without a home of their own and families living in cars.

One of the answers, according to the Homelessness Inquiry report, is to build an extra 25,000 state houses. 

"It is about political will - the gap is there, the need is there," says Labour leader Andrew Little.

"We have to get on and do it."

And it seems the Government was keen to get a jump on the inquiry, on Monday revealing a plan to deliver 30,000 new homes.

"We've certainly said to Housing New Zealand that if they need more funds to speed that up, to let us know," says Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett.

"There's no commitment to affordable housing in the plan announced today," says Greens co-leader Metiria Turei.

"I mean it really is a lot of talk and no action."

A failure to walk the talk is what forced Te Puea Marae to open its doors to the homeless earlier this year and chairman Hurimoana Dennis says bureaucracy is a major barrier.

"You can have strategies, systems, and processes until the cows come home - the people who implement the strategies are some of the bigger problems."

Both Housing New Zealand and Work and Income (WINZ) copped strong criticism from Mr Little.

"The approach that WINZ takes, that Housing NZ takes, splitting those two things up might have worked in a minister's office in Wellington - it doesn't work in real life."

Along with more social housing, the inquiry called for cheaper building materials and a crackdown on speculators.

And the Māori Party has put the Government on notice.

"We sit alongside the Government and we challenge them on those things," says co-leader Marama Fox, "and if they don't, they'll find themselves wanting at the next election - it's as simple as that."

Ms Bennett says the Government is already implementing 17 of the 20 recommendations from the report.

So while it seems both sides are on the same page, we're unlikely to see any new measures introduced.