Emergency motels have taxpayers over a barrel

Labour’s lack of solutions to the housing shortage has seen the Government fork out millions in emergency housing grants to some motels and hotels, which are raking it in at the expense of taxpayers.

New figures released to National show the ten highest-paid emergency housing providers – a mix of hotels, motels and motor lodges – were paid more than $40 million in grants in 2020.

The highest-paid housing provider received more than $6 million last year.

National’s Housing spokesperson Nicola Willis says the Government is relying too much on using hotels and motels as emergency housing, which has seen the owners of these establishments charge prices as high as $440 a night.

“It’s not a good use of taxpayers’ money and it’s not good for the people being forced to live in motels without the support services many of them need,” Ms Willis says.

“Using motels as emergency housing was only ever meant to be a short-term fix, but under Labour it has become the solution. The Government is just paying the bill and walking away.

“I don't blame the owners. If I saw this soft-touch Government coming, I might try it on too.

Relying too much on motels is problematic. Grouping together large numbers of people who may have histories of mental health issues, addiction and criminal offending, without also having support services on hand, is a recipe for social dysfunction, Ms Willis says.

“Motel owners aren't social workers, and we shouldn’t expect them to be. If the people being housed need support then the Government should be spending more money on community housing providers and support services, and less on paying these eye-watering motel bills.”

The cost of emergency housing has spiralled out of control under the Labour Government, which is now spending more than $1 million per day on hotels and motels, Ms Willis says.

“Jacinda Ardern promised to fix housing, but on her watch the Government has just dumped homeless people in hotels, paid the cheque, and walked away.

“It’s disappointing that it took questions from both the Opposition and the media to get Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni to ‘explore’ whether the taxpayer is getting value from these arrangements.

“A National Government would address the supply problem fuelling the housing shortage by scrapping the Resource Management Act, and introducing emergency powers to bypass government red-tape and get more houses built at pace.”

Attached is a table showing the ten highest-paid emergency housing providers in the period 01 January 2020 to 31 December 2020. It was provided by the Social Development Minister in answer to written parliamentary questions from National.