Motels fast way to take in homeless, says Hurimoana Dennis

By Simon Collins, Isaac Davison

Chairman salutes Labour plan to boost funds but says action needed now.

The Auckland marae that has opened its doors to the homeless wants the Government to buy motels to house families who have nowhere to go when the marae fills up.

The Mangere Bridge marae, named after Tainui's Princess Te Puea, welcomed a proposal by Labour leader Andrew Little yesterday to almost treble funding for emergency housing providers from $8.8 million to $24.2m a year by 2018.

But Te Puea Marae chairman Hurimoana Dennis said the extra housing was needed now.

"That still doesn't help us much through the next six months," he said.

"It would be good to hear that the Government has purchased two motels or announced some emergency provision to carry us over until things kick in."

The Government has already leased an entire motel in Christchurch through the VisionWest and Comcare charities to house 30 people at a time for up to eight weeks in a two-year contract - that ends early next year - for people made homeless by the 2011 earthquakes.

It paid $861,000 to the Middlepark Motel, $793,000 to Comcare and $551,000 to VisionWest in the year to June 30.

Last week, Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett announced a further $1.9m a year for 153 existing beds at 14 emergency housing agencies nationally which have relied purely on private charity until now.

Most went to the Salvation Army for its Epsom Lodge in Auckland ($600,000), Addington supported accommodation in Christchurch ($500,000) and smaller amounts for its facilities in Hamilton, Porirua, Lower Hutt and Wellington.

A second part of that tender closes on July 13 for about 450 more beds, which are likely to include new beds that may be leased from motels or private homeowners. Budget documents show the tenders will fund a total of 600 emergency beds nationally by next June and 800 by 2018.

Labour housing spokesman Phil Twyford said Labour would lift that number to 2200, keeping National's policy of expecting people to move into permanent housing after an average stay of 12 weeks.

That would lift the numbers getting emergency beds each year from about 3000 under National to 8100 under Labour, a number based on a University of Otago finding that 4200 people were sleeping "on the street, in a car, or other improvised dwellings" on Census day in 2013.

Mr Twyford said Labour would also keep National's policy of paying only an operating subsidy for each bed based on tenants paying rent at 25 per cent of their income and the Government making up the difference to the average market rent of a lower-quartile home with the same number of bedrooms in the same area.

He said Labour still planned to restore capital grants to build new permanent social housing, but expected emergency housing providers to use existing owned and leased buildings.

- NZ Herald

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