The National Party has announced it wants to scrap the use of emergency housing in Rotorua motels if elected to Government, but it could take up to two years.
National's housing spokesperson Chris Bishop and Rotorua MP Todd McClay launched the policy on Saturday.
“National will improve the way social housing operates to prioritise those most in need and at the same time, we will rebalance the private rental market", Bishop said.
He added that if elected, National would aim to end the use of motels for emergency housing across all of Aotearoa as well, but did not specify a time frame.
Housing Minister Megan Woods told Newshub last year there simply weren't enough places for people to go.
"There are individual cases of individuals that have high and complex needs. No it's not good enough, we need solutions other than motels and emergency housing," she said.
According to Bishop, “Labour has made Rotorua ground zero of New Zealand’s social housing debacle", but he added a "National government will turn that around."
Bishop said rents in Rotorua were also up by $210 per week since October 2017 when Labour was elected to Government, which he argued "has led to a huge increase in demand for social housing."
However, there has been a drop of 7.3 percent from last June in the number of people on the national public Housing Register - with 24,717 people on the list as of June this year.
TradeMe currently lists 31 private rental properties in Rotorua.
And as of July, the average weekly rent in Rotorua was $550 compared to $620 nationally.
Rotorua mayor Tania Tapsell told AM in July that the situation in Rotorua was already improving, with the number of emergency housing motels dropping from 29 to 11, but added the job wasn't finished.
National's Todd McClay, the MP for Rotorua, claimed Labour didn't want to deal with the emergency housing situation in Rotorua.
“They’ve given up on what is one of New Zealand’s premier tourist destinations and given up on the people of Rotorua who just want their city back.
Since Labour came into Government in late 2017, Kāinga Ora has built more than 270 public homes in Rotorua.
The agency also has a further 500 homes planned or under construction for the city.
National's policy would "get the town back on its feet", McClay said, by restoring tax breaks for landlords' interest deductibility, and reducing the bright-line test from ten to two years, among other measures.
“National will rebuild and restore Rotorua’s reputation as a great place to live and as a high-quality destination for domestic and international visitors.”
National's announcement comes despite iwi, local and central governments having already signed the Rotorua Housing Accord last December, to work together to end emergency housing in motels.
Bishop said the policy would also set up a "Social Bond" to pay providers to keep families out of long-term emergency housing.
Te Tūāpapa Kura Kāinga / Ministry for Housing and Urban Development does not generally support community housing providers using private rental properties for their tenants, because it does not increase overall housing supply.
National's housing policy would:
- Restore interest deductibility for private rental properties
- Reduce the bright-line test from ten to two years
- Change tenancy laws "so there are more landlords"
- Prioritise families for social housing if they've stayed in motels for more than 12 weeks.
- Reduce eligibility criteria for emergency motels
- Require families who get emergency housing grants to remain living in their current area (rather than moving towns), unless "there is a good reason not to"
- Build more social houses
- Set up a "Social Bond" to pay community housing providers to keep families out of long-term emergency housing