Duncan Garner: Jacinda, John, Jenny and Helen didn't build enough state houses - no one thought about those on the margins

OPINION: The number of people being housed in motels has exploded - housing of last resort. National's idea, Labour sniggered at it. They said it was a mess, a failure - then they inherited it. And have made it a whole lot worse.

Under Labour, it's become a spectacular failure on a grand scale. Truth is, we are 20,000 state houses short.

Around 20,000 people languish on the state housing waitlist - they get directed to a motel.

Tick tock, tick tock - these people are no longer checking out of the motel. They check in, and too many of them are still there up to two years later. 

Here are the numbers: 4000 Kiwi families or households are in motels right now, including more than 4000 kids, who say a motel is their home. 

And children are staying in motels for increasingly long periods.

Our investigations show 675 kids in the first quarter of this year had been in emergency housing for between six and 12 months.

And the number of children staying for up to two years has almost doubled from June last year to March this year. That's just nine months.

It's no place to bring up kids. 

These motels are of varying quality - some are fine, others are overrun with drugs, prostitutes, gangsters and recently released prisoners.  

I once dropped off a volatile prisoner who had been bailed to a motel in Mangere. Kids were playing board games outside as he arrived. This is no place for kids. No way.

This is Labour's inconvenient truth - it's their problem.

They can carry on about building more state houses and spending more on reducing child poverty, but that's all academic when you're housed in a motel with three kids and you've been there two years.

Truth is, Jacinda and John, Jenny and Helen, didn't build enough state houses.

We built plenty of McMansions as we stacked this country full, but no one thought about those on the margins. 

This is New Zealand's obvious underclass.

If we judge our society by how we treat our most vulnerable, then we are utterly failing.

Duncan Garner is the host of The AM Show.