The continued rise in the number of New Zealanders waiting for social housing shows the Government is all talk and no plan when it comes to putting roofs over people’s heads, National’s Social Housing spokesperson Simon O’Connor says.
“The Government painted itself as having all the answers for people in need of social housing. But the reality is, the waiting list has doubled under Labour and has grown to its highest number in at least a decade under its watch.
“More than 11,600 eligible households were on the housing register at the end of May.
“Rather than sitting back and trying to blame the problem on previous administrations, the Government needs to take responsibility for the fact its policies are hurting the very New Zealanders they claim to want to help.
“Labour’s anti-landlord housing policies have pushed up rents $50 since they came into office, meaning rents are increasing two and a half times faster than they were under National.
“The Government also scared off landlords at the bottom end of the market by raising the spectre of a capital gains tax and pushing extra costs onto landlords.
“Labour’s decision to cancel tenancy reviews for public housing tenants has also seen less housing stock freed up.
“The growing problem speaks to how much of a distraction the disastrous KiwiBuild policy was. Rather than wasting time trying to make his middle-class welfare work, Former Housing Minister Phil Twyford should have been focusing on the bigger issue in front of him.
“It remains to be seen whether the new minister in charge of public housing, Kris Faafoi, will adopt Twyford’s approach of blaming others for his failings, or he’ll actually roll up his sleeves and deliver policies that will help New Zealanders in need.”
The Botched Budget has revealed the Government has no solutions to the increasing state housing waiting list and the exploding numbers of people needing emergency housing help makes a mockery of its so-called wellbeing focus, National’s Social Housing spokesperson Simon O’Connor says.
“The Government has spent almost three times as much money this year on Emergency Housing Special Needs Grants as it anticipated just one year ago. National believes in providing for those in need, but this substantial and increasing spend on emergency housing grants shows the Government’s initiatives are failing.
“What’s more the Government is budgeting for a massive cost blow out in the upcoming years of $100 million more each year than what had been budgeted, showing the Government already admitting defeat when it comes to helping Kiwis into homes.
“With more than 11,000 New Zealanders already on the waiting list for a social house, the increase in funding for hardship grants shows the Government is admitting the waiting list is unlikely to get smaller.
“As a consequence the Government will need more than $400 million over four years to provide for those still waiting for a state house, compared to the $82 million needed under National.
“A real wellbeing budget would take steps to address the growing need for a state house, instead of throwing more money at maintaining problem. Housing Minister Phil Twyford has talked up his Government’s housing policies, but it’s very clear he doesn’t expect them to make a difference.
“The high spend on emergency housing grants shows a Government aware it will not be able to substantially reduce the social housing waiting list.
“The Government talks big about wellbeing, but KiwiBuild, its state housing programme, and the Botched Budget paint a very different picture – its policies are failing and they expect even more Kiwis to be waiting for a home.”
It’s disappointing to hear decisions made by this Government are increasing the number of people relying on social housing, National’s Social Housing spokesperson Simon O’Connor says.
“At the Ministry of Social Development annual review yesterday, officials acknowledged that the waiting list for social housing is longer than at any point in history. Officials noted this is partly because more people are leaving private housing in search of social housing.
“It is clear this is due to Housing Minister Phil Twyford’s decision to make life difficult for landlords. After telling landlords to take their money elsewhere, they are doing just that.
“By setting up more roadblocks and hurdles for landlords, and raising compliance costs, many landlords have decided not to rent out their properties. As a result more people are forced to rely on publicly funded social housing.
“Landlords are losing out under this current Government and are being driven out of the market which is in turn impacting our most vulnerable.
“It is time for this Government to admit that its plan for social housing has been a complete failure. Mr Twyford needs to be striking a balance between landlords and tenants. Instead he’s forcing more and more people into social housing.”
Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford needs to swiftly clamp down on state housing tenants that are renting out surplus rooms in their social housing properties, National’s Social Housing spokesperson Simon O’Connor says.
“Housing New Zealand officials admitted at the Social Services Select Committee yesterday some tenants are renting out spare rooms in their state houses.
“But when Mr Twyford was questioned about this today, he wasn’t aware state houses were available to rent on Airbnb, and couldn’t provide an answer on how he would stop this from happening.
“How can Mr Twyford have confidence with Housing New Zealand’s tenancy management when people are clearly living in houses larger than their needs?
“Mr Twyford’s mismanaged approach to housing challenges in New Zealand has seen over 8,500 people on a waiting list for accommodation in Auckland – a record high.
“Why is Housing New Zealand allowing tenants to have spare rooms, when there is such high demand?
“National was focused on ensuring Housing New Zealand’s homes were in the right place and of the right size to best fit its tenants’ needs.
“Tenancy reviews were a practical and effective solution ensuring houses matched tenants’ current needs. With the axing of these reviews, tenants are living in homes larger than required – taking the mickey out of Housing New Zealand by generating extra income.
“Mr Twyford was extremely vocal about the last Government’s actions on State Housing, yet he’s been in the job for almost a year and the number of people on the waiting list has increased.
“The Minister has no idea what is happening in his state houses, nor can he provide any detail on how he is going ensure tenants are in houses that best suit their needs.”
In spite of its claims of a housing crisis and promises to do better the Government will actually deliver fewer social houses than National and fewer houses for New Zealanders overall, National’s Social Housing spokesperson Simon O’Connor says.
“For years Labour claimed there was a housing crisis which it would step in and solve by building tens of thousands of new houses itself. It was an unequivocal promise from an Opposition which made a lot of promises about doing more than National.
“Only it won’t do either, and in fact it will do less than what was already happening under the previous Government.
“As of June last year, National was forecast to deliver almost 6000 more social houses over the next three years, or 2000 a year til 2020, taking the total to 72,000.
“Yet in Budget 2018 the Government has announced it will deliver just 4800 more over the same period – or 1600 per year. They’ve pledged a total of 73,000 by 2023 – so are planning to build only 1000 houses over three years after 2020.
“And let’s not forget Mr Tywford pledged to build 2000 a year when he realised his initial promise of 1000 a year was half what National was doing.
“How does that stack up against Labour’s claims of a crisis and its promise to do better? The answer is, badly. Phil Twyford is not only delivering less than National he’s not meeting his own promise. Labour is actually spending more, borrowing more and delivering less.
“And let’s not forget this is on top of the fact the Government’s flagship KiwiBuild policy has descending into farce.
“It’s now projected to have only half the impact on the residential construction market that the Government had promised, while at the same time we’re seeing a slump in the residential construction sector as a result of this Government’s bad policies.
“All this means fewer houses for all New Zealanders, including our most vulnerable, and a Government leaving a string of broken promises in its wake.
“This is yet another example of this Government saying one thing yet delivering another and it’s New Zealanders paying the price.”
To view MSD’s June 2017 Quarterly Housing Report please click here.
The Government’s axing of tenancy reviews and lack of support for social housing tenants wanting to move out of Auckland is ramping up pressure on the social housing waiting list, National’s Social Housing spokesperson Simon O’Connor says.
“Housing Minister Phil Twyford seems surprised by the increased number of people waiting for social houses, with the number up 26 per cent to 7890 in just the last three months, but he shouldn’t be because his Government’s policies are partly at fault.
“In what is the latest example of this Government’s muddled thinking and counterproductive policies, it has cancelled the Auckland Relocation grants which had seen 500 social housing tenants shift out of Auckland to areas with less pressure on social housing.
“And he’s parked state house tenancy reviews which were seeing around 500 tenants a year moved into community or private housing because they no longer needed that level of support, with many going on to buy their own homes.
“These were practical and effective solutions which were freeing up hundreds of houses in Auckland for people who needed it more and ensuring houses match tenant needs and support was targeted and taxpayer cash not wasted.
“Instead, this Government has thrown them out and decided to throw more cash at the problem when more money alone isn’t the answer.
“Let’s not forget this is on top of axing the previous Government’s social housing reforms which were making more places available, Phil Twyford’s KiwiBuild hoax and the clamp down on foreign investment and immigration which are all contributing to a slowing rate of house building.
“What the previous Government had in place was working. We were in the middle of New Zealand’s largest ever residential building boom to increase housing supply, we’d invested heavily to make more emergency and social housing spaces available – as evidenced by almost 500 more spaces coming available in the last quarter and we were providing more support where it was needed.
“The Government is going backwards with people waiting longer for help and its only solution is to throw millions more dollars at a problem and take years longer to deal with it.”
National’s Social Housing spokesperson Simon O’Connor says the Government continues to badly overpromise and under-deliver, with today’s emergency housing announcement a pale imitation of the previous Government’s support – and it’s not even all new funding.
“In 2016 the National Government announced a $304 million emergency housing package for an extra 1400 places at any one time.
“That was new money to help thousands of vulnerable New Zealanders and it was on top of rolling out Housing First, building more houses and increasing the supply of emergency and transitional housing.
“At the end of last year we were spending over $6 million every day helping 310,000 New Zealanders with their housing and accommodation costs.
“That was a serious commitment to helping New Zealanders who needed housing support, getting them into warm, safe accommodation to help people get back on their feet.
“This Government has made wild claims about the number of homeless people in New Zealand and Housing Minister Phil Twyford even told the AM Show this morning that homelessness was getting worse.
“But his answer is to do less and invest less to end it than the previous Government. His $100 million announcement today is a third of the size of National’s package and it’s not even all new money.
“That’s not good enough when they have chosen to instead blow billions on bad spending and misplaced priorities including the $2.8 billion on free tertiary education and $1 billion a year on Shane Jones’ political slush fund.”
The Government continues to have its head in the sand over the rising prison population and its refusal to admit a new prison is urgently needed is putting public safety at risk, National’s Corrections spokesperson Simon O’Connor says.
“With only 300 prison beds left and the Government no closer to making a decision on whether to continue the previous Government’s plan to build a new prison at Waikeria, New Zealanders have a right to be concerned for their safety.
“There is no denying the prison population is rising fast and these criminals have to be put somewhere. The Police Commissioner today revealed that capacity is so tight that remanded and sentenced criminals are having to be held in police cells.
“But Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis continues to put his own ideology ahead of public safety. He appears to be ignoring his own officials’ forecasts which show the urgent need for a new prison.
“At the same time, the Government has promised to increase the number of cops by 1800 which is going to mean more arrests and more people in prison.
“We know that the prison population can rise by 300 in just a matter of weeks, so what’s going to happen when we reach full capacity? Are criminals going to be let loose on our communities? Are violent criminals going to be crammed on top of each other in prison cells?
“We all know Labour prefers to be soft on crime but quite simply, the Government is going to find that it has no choice but to commit to the Waikeria prison build. The sooner it gets on with it, the better.”
The Government’s thoroughly contradictory approach to law and order will put the public at greater risk and ensure more criminals go unpunished, National Party Corrections spokesperson Simon O’Connor says.
“What we have is the Corrections Minister saying he wants to axe the planned build of a new and needed prison at the same time as a second Minister is claiming he will be tough on crime and a third wants to put more Police on the streets,” Mr O’Connor says.
“More Police and tougher sentences means more arrests and more prisoners but Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis is telling us we’ll have fewer places to put them.
“It simply doesn’t add up and the result will mean our communities will be less safe.
“While we must continue efforts to reduce crime and reoffending, there’s no escaping the fact that the number of prisoners is increasing.
“And we know that over 75 per cent of prisoners are locked up for serious, violent offences. The only way the Government will be able to axe the prison build is by letting prisoners loose or failing to catch and sentence them in the first place.
“Mr Davis needs to think very carefully about the potential consequences for the public before making any decisions, though sadly there does not yet appear to be any indication he is doing so.
“He needs to front up to New Zealanders and explain why he is willing to put their safety at risk.
A petition calling on the Auckland Council to upgrade Tamaki Drive has received almost one thousand signatures, and counting, says the MP for Tamaki Simon O’Connor.
Mr O’Connor launched the petition at the Royal Akarana Yacht Club before a full house of locals and various community leaders.
“I’ve been overwhelmed with support for this initiative. Already hundreds of signatures have been collected and more keep coming in each week.”
Locals are enthusiastically signing the petition online and returning signed flyers that were delivered to tens of thousands of homes throughout the electorate.
The Tamaki MP and St Heliers resident came up with the idea for a petition as a result of frequent feedback from constituents seeking improvements to be made to the 8.2km seaside road.
“I want the Council to see upgrading Tamaki Drive as a top priority. It has suffered years of neglect and no longer lives up to its potential. We need to improve traffic congestion and road safety, and make the road more user-friendly for pedestrians and cyclists.
“If, like me, you feel it is time to upgrade Tamaki Drive for all Aucklanders and visitors, then sign my petition today.”