Funding for emergency housing is a piece-meal afterthought on the margins of a state and social housing sector that is under-resourced and is operating in an environment of a private rental market that is insufficiently regulated and insecure. It arises out of a charitable model of service provision and the initiative of local communities and individual agencies. It lacks a sense of place within a wider housing strategy (which is itself unclear). This funding situation reflects the overall confusion at the lower end of the housing market, where government intervention is inadequate. (NZCCSS comments to the Emergency Housing Review May 2015)
NZCCSS shared some forthright views on the need for more emergency housing and the overall urgent housing needs for vulnerable New Zealanders in our submission on the Emergency Housing Review. Our comments and recommendations are summarised below.
What is emergency housing?
The review defines emergency housing as: “Urgent and very short-term accommodation for people who have nowhere to stay (e.g. night shelters) to longer-term accommodation for weeks and possibly months that supports people while they transition into more permanent accommodation.”
Camping grounds are often emergency housing
There is great need for emergency housing. At the 2006 Census (the most recent published research) researchers have identified 650 people living in night shelters, women’s refuges or the 45 other accommodation providers that targeted people who “lack access to minimally adequate housing”. MSD currently funds only 16 organisations, which suggests that only one third of all providers receive government funding. This in turn be seen in comparison to the over 5,000 people estimated in 2006 as living without accommodation (i.e. living rough or in housing that lacks basic amenities without security of tenure).
Right to Housing
New Zealand is bound by international human rights agreements that include the right to adequate housing. State and social housing is the means by which the government ensures the right to housing for vulnerable people is protected. It imposes a high duty of care on the state to ensure that Housing NZ and community housing groups are resourced to support people well.
Recommendation: The review of emergency housing needs to ensure that the right to housing is acknowledged and the obligations this places on government intervention on behalf of the most vulnerable in the housing market are adequately addressed.
National Homelessness Strategy
The absence of any form of strategic direction for state and social housing at present means that there is little focus or coherency to the way the needs of the most vulnerable in the housing market are responded to. A strategy needs to be developed with those most affected themselves (i.e. people in severe housing need) and those who support them and advocate for them. It would need to be well-resourced but developing a comprehensive strategy should not be used as an excuse to delay changes to ensuring good emergency housing responses are in place now.
Recommendation: develop a coherent and long term housing strategy that includes recognition of the priority of those in the most severe housing need (i.e. homeless).
Results That Can Be Achieved
It is important to ensure that the process is people-focused, looking at what will give individuals and families the basis to improve their wellbeing. Research and experience tells us that helping people to build community and find a sense of belonging is a central role of housing. Emergency housing can help begin to bring stability and community into complex life situations. This requires a commitment from funders for long-term support that recognises the real costs of offering the services.
VisionWest family with their new house
The Emergency Housing projects that have been started in Christchurch appear to offer a hope for an adequate approach to funding emergency housing. The contracts have two years funding attached to them through MSD and are fully funded and are not dependent on the housing provider owning the properties. While these projects are in the early days, being able to have enough of the right kind of skilled staff is showing very positive results.
Recommendation: The Christchurch projects be well evaluated and the possibility of trialling these in other cities such as Auckland be considered.
Recommendation: Commitment to sustained and long-term funding support
Read the [wpfilebase tag=fileurl id=1377 linktext=’NZCCSS comments’ /] on the review or go to our Publications page under Submissions.