Govt accused of running get-rich-quick scheme after National reveals motels being paid millions for emergency accommodation

National has accused the Government of running a get-rich-quick scheme for motel owners, some of whom have been earning millions for operating as emergency accommodation.

The party's housing spokesperson Nicola Willis revealed since Labour came into office:

  • One emergency housing supplier has earned $14.7 million
  • One motel has earned $10.5 million
  • 10 motels have earned more than $5 million
  • 128 emergency housing suppliers have earned more than $1 million

Willis said significant expenditure is the result of policy failure.

"We have community housing providers up and down New Zealand who are ready to provide better housing options and better support to people in need, but instead, this Government thinks it is enough to write a big cheque to a motel."

She told Newshub the money could have gone into getting those in emergency accommodation into permanent residences.

"More than half a billion dollars has been spent on housing people in emergency accommodation since Labour came into office. I think all New Zealanders know a lot of houses could have been built with that sum of money."

Silverfern Property Services - an Auckland property management company - is the housing provider that has received $14.7 million from December 2017 - December 2020.

Anglesea Motel and Conference Centre in Hamilton has received over $10 million, followed by 540 Motel with $8.3m, MCentral Apartments in Manukau with $7.7m and Hygate Motor Lodge with $7.1m.

Willis said there is no end in sight, with the number of emergency housing grants to peak at 170,000 for each of the next two years -  a significant increase compared to 2017, when that number was 35,994.

"They need a plan to exit the motels and come up with a better value-for-money solution that provides more support and is safer for the people living for them and is safer for the community," she said.

But Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni defended the spending.

She told TVNZ the funds are needed.

"That one in Hamilton [Anglesea Motel and Conference Centre] is one of the larger facilities we use and also is set up with two- to three-bedroom options for accommodation," Sepuloni said.

"[It] works for larger families so it costs a little bit more."

Currently around 8500 adults and 3888 kids live in motels.

There are also teenagers as young as 16-years-oldliving in them who have told Lifewise they feel safer on the street than on emergency accommodation.

Sepuloni told TVNZ she wasn’t "comfortable" with the number of people currently in emergency housing but said it is better than the alternative of having those people living in their cars.

"We have to house people in an emergency situation," she said.