Salvation Army calls for social housing overhaul

MICHAEL FOX
Last updated 05:00 15/11/2013

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The Salvation Army is calling for an overhaul of New Zealand's social housing policy, saying a third of New Zealanders are struggling to secure adequate and affordable housing.

Its policy analyst, Alan Johnson, said demographic pressures made the situation increasingly urgent.

"All this Government and previous governments has done is as little as it could get away with," he said.

"They don't have any over-arching purpose for what they're doing."

Access was a problem for about 30 per cent of New Zealanders and this could worsen as population and high building costs created a growing shortage of affordable housing, he said.

"And so while it might be extreme to say there is a crisis, there is a deepening problem and nothing's being done to address that."

The 130-page report written by Johnson said the Government was taking more out of Housing New Zealand in dividends and putting less capital in than its Labour predecessor.

"The Government is basically shipping money out of an organisation that's meant to be housing poor and low income New Zealanders at a time when they really need that."

Housing Minister Nick Smith disputed this, saying the report ignored the amount the Government was spending on the income-related rent subsidy.

Over the course of the past three years the Government had given Housing Corporation $1785m on top of the capital contributions with a net input after dividends of $1643m.

Smith said it was ironic for the Salvation Army to criticise the Government's housing direction because it had been part of developing the social housing policy.

Housing was not neglected as it was so important to New Zealanders.

"I just don't accept their notion that governments historically have not been focused on it, I think quite the opposite."

Labour housing spokesman Phil Twyford said the report showed the Government was not doing enough.

"At the very time when there's a huge pressure on the bottom end of the housing market, people need state housing more than ever National's basically squeezing the lifeblood out of it."

The report also described the $27 million in funding announced by the Government to extend income-related rent subsidies to the private sector in order to grow the social housing sector as "at best… a token effort".


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