Government continues to enable motels to profit from housing crisis
A recent investigation by Stuff
, coupled with information obtained through the Ministry of Social Development shows that a single motel which charges
up to $1,500 per week per room has received over $3 million worth of Government funds to provide emergency assistance,
despite never having a Code Compliance Certificate – an offence under the Building Act – and receiving a series of
longstanding complaints from occupants regarding the sanitary and safety conditions of the premises. From the period of December 2016 to June 2018 the Government has handed out over $61.7 million worth of Emergency
Housing Special Needs grants to motels
without putting in place standards to ensure the Emergency Accommodation providers are providing a safe place for
homeless people to stay.
Despite criticism from Labour and other parties when in opposition about using motels for emergency accommodation, the
current Government has not introduced any measures to proactively ensure contracted motels meet basic criteria of safety
for tenants. Auckland Action Against Poverty is calling on the Government to better monitor its contracted emergency accommodation
providers and to stop declining low income people assistance for food and rent arrears to prevent many having to reach
emergency accommodation motels in the first place.
“On one hand we have Work and Income case managers declining assistance for $100 worth of food grants or rent arrears,
which would stop people going homeless—but paying moteliers up to $1,500 per for a one bedroom unit. The approach to
providing assistance by Working and Income case managers to our most vulnerable comes with many inconsistencies and
double standards”, says Ricardo Menendez March, Auckland Action Against Poverty Coordinator.
“It is not acceptable for the Prime Minister to claim that the only other alternative to sleeping in the streets is an
unsafe, unsanitary motel, as a result of the investigation on Astro motel.
It is well within the Government’s power to introduce more permanent and cost-effective solutions to our high levels of
homelessness, rather than continuing this expensive and absolutely inadequate approach. Many of these solutions could be
implemented in the short term and don’t rely upon increasing the state housing stock.
“Contracted motels are often unsafe, unsanitary, and create social tension by mixing people with complex needs into
crammed spaces. A motel is not equipped to provide any social services or conditions our homeless community needs.
“We are calling on the Government to demand the Ministry of Social Development puts in place measures to proactively
monitor the conditions of its contracted emergency accommodation providers. It should not take dozens of ignored complaints by people on the benefit and a journalistic investigation for the
Government to act on exploitative moteliers.
“The Ministry of Social Development needs to ensure that people on the benefit are receiving their full benefit
entitlements before they end up homeless. The people we work with at AAAP often end up in emergency accommodation units
because of rent arrears from the high cost of private rentals or because they were pushed out of overcrowded Housing New
Zealand homes. If Work and Income case managers were proactively doing all they could to provide assistance for people,
many would not be finding themselves in this situation.
“The contracting of motels for emergency housing, first started by the previous National Government, has enabled
moteliers to profit off a lack of state housing. As the social housing waiting list reaches 10,000, twice as large as when the Labour-led Government came into power, the
Government is failing to reach its target of 1,000 extra state homes per year or address rental affordability issues.If the current Government does not ramp up the construction of state homes and address the culture at the Ministry of
Social Development, they’ll simply continue enabling the same model they criticised when in opposition.