Housing Minister can't promise state house hopefuls will be out of motels by end of Labour's term

Housing Minister Megan Woods cannot promise state house hopefuls they will be out of motels by the end of Labour's term in 2023.

There are more than 22,000 people on the state house waiting list up from 5844 when Labour was elected in 2017, and with a housing shortage, state house hopefuls are put in motels funded by the Government - a policy introduced by National.

The Government has built 4759 state homes since Labour was elected at the end of 2017, and there are plans to build an additional 8000 state and transitional homes, bringing the total to 18,000 by 2024.

But even with 18,000 state and transitional houses, that would still leave more than 4000 people needing somewhere to live, going by the current waiting list.

Dr Woods was asked on The AM Show on Friday if she could promise people on the state house waiting list that they will not be living in motels by the end of Labour's term, since the Government has pledged to fix the housing crisis.

But the Housing Minister didn't address the question directly at first.

"I want to stop paying those motel bills - it's not good for anyone and it's certainly not good for the people that have to bring up their kids in a motel unit and send them off to school. It's not good for the taxpayer having to pick up the tab for those motels," Dr Woods said.

"So what we're also building as part of this is that transitional housing. That's also what we really lacked. There wasn't a plan for how it is that we get people from a housing crisis or emergency where they really have nowhere to live - how we put that wraparound support around them and prepare them for taking on their own tenancy, whether that be in a state house or a market rental.

"So as well as building state houses, we're also building permanent transitional housing, so we won't have to keep picking up those motel tabs."

Host Duncan Garner asked Dr Woods again: "But can you promise they will be out of motels by the end of the second term?"

Housing Minister Megan Woods.
Housing Minister Megan Woods. Photo credit: The AM Show

The Housing Minister couldn't make that promise.

"Certainly, addressing homelessness is something that is a priority for us. I'm not going to make assertions. We don't know what's going to happen over the next three years. The first three years showed us that anything can happen and does happen," she said.

"But certainly, my pledge and my promise is that for this Government making sure that we are addressing not only the affordability of rentals, but how it is that we get people into a situation in their life where they can sustain a tenancy is a priority for us and we're putting our money where our mouth is by building the infrastructure that we need in order to do that in the form of permanent transitional housing."

Dr Woods acknowledged that the 18,000 state and transitional houses by 2024 does not match the more than 22,000 on the waiting list today, but she doubts it will increase to 30,000 by the end of the Government's current term, despite the list more than trebling under Labour.

"I don't accept that the waiting list will necessarily be 30,000 by then because what we have to look at is how all the different bits of what we're doing in housing fit together. What we have is a shortage of housing - that is driving up rents in some parts of New Zealand. What we also have to make sure is that we have got pipelines of supply coming on - that we've got enough houses. It's what it boils down to."

Dr Woods has often blamed the previous National-led Government for selling off state houses, leaving a shortfall for the current Government to fill.

"I think one of the things that's worth noting is that [we're] having to rebuild that capacity after a decade of not only selling off state houses and not building them," she told The AM Show.

Garner pointed out that the Government has had more than 1000 days in office now. 

"Not blaming, Duncan, just stating the facts," Dr Woods said.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern laid out the Government's timeline to address the housing crisis on Thursday. It includes reforming the complex Resource Management Act (RMA), housing supply measures in the upcoming Budget, and councils being forced to free up more land for housing under the new National Policy Statement on Urban Development.  

Environment Minister David Parker is leading the RMA reform. 

"There is a lot of things you have got to do. You have got to build more public housing, you have got to reform the RMA - we are doing that. You have got to use the RMA to force councils to release more land for subdivisions which comes into effect in June this year," he told The AM Show.

"I know people say 'well it is easy to build a house', we are pumping out new houses, public housing at the rate of more than six a day, every day of the week, every week of the year. We are making progress but it is a big problem to overcome and it's going to take a while."