Housing Minister Chris Bishop

PHOTO: Housing Minister Chris Bishop. FILE

The Government is entrusting the Ministry of Social Development with intensifying scrutiny on individuals seeking access to emergency housing, including evaluating if they have “unreasonably contributed” to their need for such housing and assessing their efforts to secure alternative accommodations.

Additionally, families with children who have been in emergency housing for more than 12 weeks will be prioritized on the social housing list. This initiative, according to Housing Minister Chris Bishop, marks the initial phase towards discontinuing the widespread reliance on emergency housing.

The preceding administration faced significant challenges regarding emergency housing, notably in Rotorua, where concerns arose over the conditions in motels used for emergency housing, along with associated anti-social behavior and crime impacting nearby residents.

Bishop announced the introduction of a “Priority One” category for families with children in emergency housing, aimed at expediting their transition to social housing.

He emphasized the urgent need to address the emergency housing crisis, highlighting the detrimental impact on thousands of children who were forced to reside in motels under the previous government’s oversight.

Under the current system, approximately $340 million is allocated annually for emergency housing, yet the emotional toll on families, especially children enduring prolonged stays in motels, is deemed a tragedy.

Bishop outlined that families with dependent children in emergency housing for over 12 weeks will be elevated to the top of the social housing waitlist, facilitating their access to stable housing at an earlier stage. This new category is slated for implementation in April of this year.

Minister Louise Upston underscored the government’s commitment to enhancing verification procedures for emergency housing applicants, including scrutinizing their contribution to their housing crisis, efforts to secure alternative housing, and compliance with obligations.

She outlined plans to refine emergency housing verification processes, review eligibility criteria, and provide clearer guidelines for applicants, ensuring that emergency housing is utilized only when absolutely necessary.

The “Priority One” category will specifically target families with children in emergency housing for extended periods, recognizing the heightened risks to their health and education outcomes.

Associate Housing Minister Tama Potaka emphasized a “social investment lens,” focusing on targeted support and exploring innovative solutions like social bonds to address the issue comprehensively.