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Housing crisis in regional NZ

Opinion Piece

No one could have failed to have been moved by the stories of struggle and despair at a recent housing hui in Hawke’s Bay.

One brave homeless woman with five children revealed to the shocked audience how her whanau had been forced into living in a shed at the back of a two-bedroom property which was occupied by 10 other people.

Despite spending six months on a priority emergency waiting list, they were moved around four different whare, having to split the children between other whanau. This was unsettling for the children, and one of the boys fell into trouble.

Thankfully, after the intervention of my Hastings office, we managed to secure a safe, warm home for them.

A family of six living in a shed — and still the National Government won’t admit there’s a housing crisis.

It has failed to rein in rapidly rising house prices which are excluding ?first-home buyers and pushing up rents, failed to stop speculators buying and flicking on homes for massive profits, and failed to provide more temporary accommodation for an increasing number of Kiwis in desperate situations.

The latest figures obtained by Labour show the Government plans to sell 1000 more state houses in 2016/17, following last year’s sell-off of 448.

It is inexcusable for the Government to be selling off state houses in the middle of a housing crisis.

There are now 4585 families on the waiting list in New Zealand. Here in Gisborne, 83 families are waiting for a home, half of those in desperate need. Gisborne also has the lowest home ownership rate in the country at just 59 percent according to Census 2013, down from 62 percent in Census 2006.

More than 4000 state homes have been sold or demolished in the past five years. In my hometown of Hawke’s Bay, we have lost 377 state houses since 2011, with only seven replacement homes built. The gap between supply and demand is displacing whanau all around New Zealand and placing them under unimaginable pressure and distress.

National’s “solutions” reveal just how ill-equipped they are to deal with this crisis.

John Key told young families struggling to enter the property market to look on Trade Me. Paula Bennett’s $5000 offer for homeless people to move out of Auckland has had no takers. Bill English’s announcement of a billion-dollar infrastructure loan to councils fell flat. Steven Joyce announced on Twitter that National wouldn’t be asking for a Housing NZ dividend — immediately after Labour announced this as a policy. National are in reactionary, policy-on-the-fly mode.

Labour, on the other hand, has a comprehensive plan to tackle the problem. We will build more affordable homes. We’ll end National’s state house sell-off and stop using HNZ as a cash cow, refocusing it on what it does best — looking after people in need. Whanau camping in cars or in garages will be helped into temporary accommodation through extra funding to emergency housing providers.

In the past few weeks, my offices around Ikaroa-Rawhiti have worked with an increasing number of people in desperate situations. Last week I met with several whanau staying in motels. Proud, dignified people doing their best to care for their children. One desperate mother of three showed me her diary with 60 private rental viewings over the last month, yet no offers of a home.

To hear these stories first-hand is heart-breaking — and still National insists there isn’t a housing crisis. Meanwhile, people in the provinces struggle day in, day out to find a home for their whanau. Labour knows there is a crisis, and that it takes bold ideas to address it.

130515 GH Meka Whaitiri