Quarter of Auckland state houses overcrowded

Auckland state housing.
Auckland state housing. Photo credit: Getty

Housing New Zealand is facing a serious challenge finding suitable houses for those in need.

The Auditor-General has done a stocktake of the agency and found the country's state housing stock is out of whack with what's needed. That's resulting in more than half of Housing New Zealand's tenants being put in ill-suited homes, including a number that are in overcrowded homes.

The overcrowding problem is worst in Auckland, where 25 percent of state homes have more people crammed in than there are rooms available.

That's a stark difference to Dunedin where 61 percent of homes were underutilised. Housing New Zealand classes that as having more than one bedroom spare.

The Auditor-General's stocktake on social housing calls for a cohesive strategy across a number of government departments. It says the agency's ability to plan for longer-term investment has been "adversely affected" by the absence of a coherent long-term strategy.

"A coherent long-term social housing strategy is needed. The Government organisations with responsibilities in the social housing sector [the Ministry, the Treasury, Te Puni Kōkiri, and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment] need to work collaboratively to provide a coherent long-term social housing strategy."

But it also says there is a major challenge in implementing long-term strategies: changes of Government.

"We acknowledge that implementing longer-term plans will be affected by a number of factors. Not the least of these would be policies and priorities of the Government of the day."

The report spells out a change in the types of people needing state homes, which is presenting challenges for the agency.

"There has been an increase in demand for houses for single people and single parents with children in particular and, to a lesser extent, for larger families. There has been a decrease in demand for houses for two parents with children.

"This means that Housing New Zealand has, relative to the family composition of those in need of housing, too many three-bedroom houses and too few one-bedroom houses. Housing New Zealand has been aware of this mismatch for some years," the report says.

It also raises the issue of an increasingly ageing housing stock, and one that is in need of too much maintenance.

"HNZ has stated that, since 2011, about one-third of its houses are increasingly too expensive to maintain, located in low-demand areas, or not the right size for tenants' needs. These challenges reinforce the need for a long-term and co-ordinated view about social housing."

Forty percent of our social houses were built more than 50 years ago.

Housing New Zealand wants to bring the average age of homes from 45 years down to 37 years old. That means it will have to replace or renew 60 percent of its housing stock over the next 20 years.