This year, New Zealanders have seen the full extent of homelessness in our country today.
We’ve seen the dozens of families sleeping at marae. We’ve seen landlords renting out garages as illegal accommodation to desperate people at extortionate prices. We have seen the young people living in tents and cars because they’ve got nowhere else to go. We have seen the government charging families tens of thousands of dollars to live in motels, at the same time as they sell off state houses.
We have learned that over 40,000 people are homeless. Most shocking of all, we have learned that, in New Zealand today, there are 10,000 homeless children living in overcrowded motels, garages, cars, caravan parks, tents.
We used to be proud that New Zealand wasn't like other countries: we didn't have people begging; we didn't let children live on the streets. Part of the Kiwi Dream has always been that we are a nation where we leave no-one behind. Under National, homelessness has become commonplace and we've lost part of what makes New Zealand special.
We can fix it.
Labour believes that New Zealand can be a better country, where everyone has a decent place to live.
Labour has already announced that we will build 100,000 affordable homes for people to buy, along with thousands more state houses, and we will fund 5,000 more emergency housing places per year.
More is needed. So we called for this inquiry with our partners, the Greens, and invited all other parties to join with us.
This Homelessness Inquiry report shows that Labour and our partners are offering positive solutions to the real issues facing New Zealanders. We've done the leg work, we've talked to the people:
We heard from the young mother with two toddlers paying $400 a week to live in a cockroach-infested caravan.
We heard from the 69 year old woman in Tauranga who was about to be kicked out of a campground because she couldn’t afford the rent and would be living in her car.
From those stories and the advice of experts, we've come up with a positive plan and proven, practical steps. The top four recommendations are:
- Take a Housing First approach to homelessness – that means getting a roof over people’s heads is the top priority. Once you’ve done that, then you can help them with other issues they may have.
- Increase the state housing stock by stopping the state house sell off and building more.
- Make housing more affordable by building more affordable houses, reducing the cost of building a home, and tackling speculation in the property market.
- Create a national strategy to end homelessness – because we can’t hope to fix a problem without a plan.
This can be a country where every child has a roof over their head and a decent place to live. All it takes is the will.
The ball is now in the government's court. Will they act on these recommendations or will they continue to sit on their hands?