Government announces $300 million plan to combat homelessness

The government is promising one thousand new transitional housing places to reduce homelessness by the end of the year in a new $300 million plan.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the Aotearoa New Zealand Homelessness Action Plan on Thursday, which aims to almost double the number of transitional housing places created since 2017. The plan also aims to reduce the reliance on emergency motel accommodation.

Along with Minister of Housing Megan Woods and Associate Housing minister Kris Faafoi, Ardern released the plan, which includes putting $70 million into homelessness prevention programmes. It also includes extra payments for people staying in motels to ensure parity with other social housing tenants.

Ardern said the problem will take time to fix but it is a big priority for the government.

"On coming into office, our immediate priority was to get people out of sleeping in cars and garages or on the street and into safe and warm accommodation,” Ardern said.

"This Government has put a public housing building programme into action on a scale that hasn’t been seen in New Zealand for 40 years."

Housing Minister Megan Woods said the biggest issue to address was getting people into transitional housing to give them more stability and release some financial stress.

Currently, families are staying in emergency hotel accommodation for much longer than the recommended time.

Woods said, "Motels were only ever intended as short-term emergency accommodation of up to seven days, but the average length of stay has increased to over seven weeks.

"Motels are not a suitable environment for vulnerable individuals, families and whanau and they are also not cost-effective so we will provide 1,000 more transitional housing places by the end of the year in order to reduce the numbers on motels." 

To combat this issue and the stress it put on those involved the government will be introducing a 25 per cent income payment for those who have stayed in motels for longer than seven days.

 Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni said, "We want to make housing costs as consistent and fair as possible for all families and people who receive government housing support – no matter what type of housing they’re in".

"Currently emergency accommodation is the only form of housing where tenants aren’t required to make any payment contribution. All other people receiving housing support contribute a small part-payment for their accommodation, which is an anomaly.

"We need to ensure that emergency accommodation is reserved for those who need it most and that there is parity between those receiving different types of housing support," Sepuloni said.

Alongside the immediate action the plan details, there is a long term plan of action to prevent homelessness altogether.

Associate Housing Minister Kris Faafoi said, "This next step in our plan aims to both prevent people becoming homeless in the first place."

The plan also includes $70 million which will go towards homelessness programmes.

Faafoi said, "The Homelessness Action Plan builds on our Government’s commitment to ensure New Zealanders, particularly our most vulnerable, who are in need of housing support get that support with urgency".