Revealed: Wait times for state houses balloon as those most at risk face lengthy delay

Newshub can reveal that 198 people are in the direst need of state houses and it's taking more than six months to house them. 

A detailed breakdown of the priority ratings of the 23,000 people on New Zealand's social housing waitlist shows it's now taking more than six months to house the 1 percent of those on the list who are deemed the most at risk.

Kestrel Te Amo, who is classed as Priority A or "at risk" on the state house waitlist, has been living in a motel for six months and is losing hope. Two of her children live with her, but her others, including a three-year-old, are staying with family in Wairoa.

"It's extremely heartbreaking to be separated from my children," she says.

While she's grateful for the roof over her head, a motel isn't a home.

"I've been in there a while now so I'm starting to give up a little."

Within the at-risk group that Te Amo is part of are more priority rankings. The highest rating - the most extreme risk - is A20, and Newshub can reveal the number in that category has ballooned.

In March 2018, just after Labour took Government, there were none, but in 2019 that increased to 21, and in 2020 it rose to 87. Now it's more than doubled from last year and there are 198 people in the most severe need of housing.

"It is our responsibility to address this. I grant you that and we are encouraging people to come forward," says associate Minister of Housing Poto Williams.

The amount of time it's taking to find homes for the most vulnerable is extraordinary. In March 2018, the average number of days it took to house those most at risk was seven days. In March the following year, that dropped to zero and they found homes immediately. Now it's taking 207 days to find housing - more than six months.

Williams says they're building 18,000 social houses but couldn't answer when those wait times would start dropping. 

"I can't give you that figure, all I can say is that our build will go a long way to reducing that," she says.

Poto Williams.
Poto Williams. Photo credit: Newshub.

The National Party's housing spokesperson, Nicola Willis, says these New Zealanders "have been failed" by the Government's housing policies.

"These are people who may have been victims of domestic violence. They might have incredibly high health needs," she says.

Te Amo is in a lower priority group - still high risk, but not the highest - and she's been on the waitlist since March.

The number of people in her priority rating has grown from 180 in March 2018 to 2500 this year. 

The average time it used to take to house someone like Te Amo was 57 days in 2018, now it's 234 days.

"There's a lot of work to do, I'm not denying that and there are a lot of people waiting for housing," Williams says.

Te Amo says "it's not fair" there aren't enough houses to accommodate families currently living in motels.

"If the Government can pump heaps of money into a yacht race, why is it so hard to find money for my family and others so we can have a home?" she says.

She questions how the Government can justify paying millions of dollars to house people in motels instead of that money going towards homes for those in need.

"I have no privacy to do the things I want to do in my own home, to be able to invite family over for a meal or get together without the threat of eviction, to have my children play outside without fear of eviction because of the noise," she says.

"I just want somewhere for me and my kids without feeling like a prisoner and worried if I'm going to be without a home."

The Government's steadfast excuse for the growing housing waitlist has been that they are encouraging people to come forward - finding the hidden homeless - but that excuse is wearing thin after nearly four years in power.

Despite adding about 7000 to the public housing stock, the need is so much greater and its urgency needs to be recognised.