Homeless Aucklanders could receive $5000 grant to be rehoused out of city
Homeless Aucklanders living in cars and garages could get up to $5000 and a house within days - but they'll have to leave the city.
Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett has announced the scheme, which will also be open to families living in Auckland state houses, saying there are empty state houses and affordable rentals around the country which can house them.
Bennett said the size of the grant would depend on where families were moving and how many people had to be relocated, but would be between $1000 and $5000.
A similar scheme giving Work and Income clients $3000 move to Christchurch had been "very successful", she said.
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The scheme would cost up to $750,000 to relocate 150 families, depending on where they moved, while the maximum $5000 grant was aimed at state house tenants rather than the homeless.
She stressed that it was voluntary, and was aimed at those who had the freedom to relocate elsewhere.
"I understand some people have kids in school and need to be in Auckland, and so I'm not talking about them, but for others we're just opening up the choice.
"For some people, and I by no means think everyone, there will be situations where [they are] actually moving to a town where there's really good support services, where it's more affordable, and some of them might be moving back to where their family are."
Towns such as Whanganui, Palmerston North and Lower Hutt had vacant Housing NZ properties, while there were also private rentals that would be affordable with the help of an accommodation supplement.
HOMELESS COULD HAVE HOUSE 'WITHIN DAYS'
Bennett said the Government's work on relocating social housing tenants outside of Auckland, to "free up" houses for those who had to stay in the city for work or their children, had been in progress for months.
However, expanding the scheme to cover homeless Aucklanders was "something that we've just come up with in the last few days".
The decision meant that homeless Kiwis could have a roof over their heads "within days", Bennett said.
The Government is also bringing forward special needs grants for families in need of emergency housing from September 1 to July 1, so they do not have to repay Work and Income for loans to cover the costs of their stay.
Bennett said difficulties with changing Work and Income's computer system were behind the original start date for the grants, but it was too important to delay.
"I'd never been comfortable with September...certainly the thought of people being really stuck over all of winter is just not tenable, so that is one of the reasons of bringing that forward."
Bennett also announced a "flying squad" of representatives from government agencies and NGOs was being set up to approach people sleeping in cars to check on their situation and what support they needed.
Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said the scheme was "another short-term housing half-measure from the Government, done more for appearance than effect".
"The obvious solution to our housing emergency is not to ship people out of Auckland to find a home; it's for the Government to build more state houses in Auckland."
Turei said it was not be possible for many families to move out of Auckland, while thousands would still be living in garages, cars or on the streets.
Labour leader Andrew Little dismissed the announcement as "policy on the hoof", noting the fact that Finance Minister Bill English told reporters he was unaware of the announcement.
"Having let the housing crisis spiral out of control, the Government's three housing ministers are now in damage control mode as the consequences of their failures come home to roost.
"It is just not a credible policy to provide cash incentives for homeless people to ship them out of town."
While there were empty state houses in some regions, that was because the eligibility requirements were too tight, he said.