Thursday, February 22, 2024

$500,000 spent per month on housing grants

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The Government spent more than $500,000 on emergency housing special needs grants locally each month earlier this year. Times photo Wayne Martin

It has taken six months and counting for questions relating to public housing in east Auckland to be answered.

In early April the Times asked Kainga Ora, formerly known as Housing NZ, how many transitional, emergency and social housing places are in the Howick ward area now compared to five years ago, as well as how much future investment the agency is planning locally.

A Kainga Ora spokesperson replied the same day saying the agency is the only provider of supported and transitional housing and the communications manager’s team would pick up the query.

The spokesperson suggested contacting the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) for questions relating specifically to emergency housing.

Five months later, in early September, the Times asked Kainga Ora for an update on the query, having received no information since the initial request.

The spokesperson apologised for the agency’s “tardiness” and said he would check to see what work, if any, had been undertaken to respond to the original request for information.

One month later, as of October 11, no information has been provided.

However, Pakuranga MP Simeon Brown has lodged written questions with the Government relating to public housing in east Auckland which have been answered.

He asked Social Development and Employment Minister Carmel Sepuloni how much money the Government has spent on emergency housing special needs grants in the Howick ward area each month for the past five years.

The grants are available to people “who cannot remain in their usual place of residence, if any, and will not have access to other accommodation which is adequate for their or their family’s needs”, according to the MSD website.

Sepuloni’s answer to Brown shows $33,354 was spent on the grants in the Howick ward in January 2017.

The figure shrank in January the following year before ballooning to $175,772 in January 2020.

It then exploded to $456,565 in January last year, with January this year recording a figure of $559,303 spent in just one month.

Brown is critical of how much the Government is spending on the grants with the amounts continuing to rise.

“Labour said they were going to come to office and fix the housing crisis but the reality is things have got much worse under their leadership,” he says.

“What we’re seeing now is significant amounts of money being spent on emergency housing, which is money that’s not being put into building new houses.”

Brown says Labour promised in 2017 to build 100,000 affordable homes in 10 years under the KiwiBuild scheme, but has so far built just over 1000.

“They’re having to put people into motels to try and give them a roof over their heads.

“It’s an absolute failure to deliver on housing.”

Housing Minister Dr Megan Woods recently announced the Government had added an additional 10,037 public homes since it came into office.

“It’s extremely satisfying and a testament to our commitment to providing a safety net for people who need public housing that we have delivered these warm, dry homes after public housing was decimated under the previous National Government.”

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