Wait for social housing growing

Palmerston North people in need of social housing have had to wait longer for help because of changes in eligibility assessments, support service providers say.

As of April 14, the Ministry of Social Development became responsible for Housing NZ eligibility assessments for state-owned accommodation.

Housing Advice Centre manager Sue Swinbourne and Prisoners Aid and Rehabilitation Society field worker Garry Buckman have said applicants have waited weeks rather than days to get face-to-face interviews since the change.

Some applicants had to wait months before being placed in accommodation, they said.

Ministry of Social Development spokesman Martyn Watterson said every case was assessed by its priority and the availability of an appropriate property.

"It's not about the time spent on the wait list. Another person with a higher priority may come in any time, and people are constantly coming on and off the wait list," he said.

Disadvantaged groups such as low-income single parents, the elderly and newly released prisoners had often been unable to afford private housing, so had turned to state housing.

Buckman said that in the private sector an ex-prisoner seeking accommodation would always lose out to tenants seen as more desirable.

"When there's a high demand for a resource, people at the bottom are marginalised."

Swinbourne said the type of state housing on offer did not always meet people's needs.

Manawatu Tenants' Union co-ordinator Kevin Reilly said many in need were looking for one- or two-bedroom units.

The lack of one- and two-bedroom accommodation was identified in a 2011 report released by Housing Forum Palmerston North.

Housing NZ properties manager Marcus Bosch said they had 22 habitable units currently vacant and he was confident they had enough housing to meet the demand.

As of June 2014, the Ministry of Social Development had 30 people on the wait list needing one- or two-bedroom units, but Housing NZ said there were 14 such units vacant.

Manawatu Standard