Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Housing crisis drives jump in Winz loans

Desperate Aucklanders struggling to cope with the city's housing crisis have borrowed almost $20 million from Work and Income for accommodation costs in the past year. File photo
Desperate Aucklanders struggling to cope with the city's housing crisis have borrowed almost $20 million from Work and Income for accommodation costs in the past year. File photo

Desperate Aucklanders struggling to cope with the city's housing crisis have borrowed almost $20 million from Work and Income for accommodation costs in the past year.

June benefit data released today shows that Work and Income loans and grants for accommodation in Auckland jumped 12 per cent from $17.5m in the year to June 2015 to $19.7m in the latest June year.

In the June quarter alone, accommodation assistance was 23 per cent higher than the same quarter of last year.

However overall benefit numbers continued to decline, down 6 per cent in Auckland and 2 per cent nationally since June last year, as the building boom sucked up people off the dole particularly in Auckland and the Bay of Plenty.

Acting Social Development Minister Jo Goodhew said the numbers on main benefits were the lowest of any June quarter since 2008, before the global financial crisis.

But Green MP Jan Logie said the accommodation numbers in Auckland were "just another message to the Government that they have got to take urgent action on the housing crisis".

Most of the accommodation assistance is for tenants to pay bonds and rent in advance, and has to be repaid.

The figures would also include loans for families to stay in motels when they can't find anywhere else to live. Work and Income said in May that it had paid $60,000 in motel bills to a mother of eight who was banned from Housing NZ for a year because of alleged P use in her previous home.

Overall hardship loans for all reasons including food as well as housing costs in Auckland rose 13.5 per cent to $46.5m over the past year for beneficiaries, and by 19 per cent to $5.5m for non-beneficiaries.

Non-repayable special needs grants, which are mainly to replace broken whiteware and other essential needs, increased by 3 per cent to $19m.

But overall benefit numbers fell over the past year in 12 of the country's 16 regions. The biggest falls were in Auckland (down 6.3 per cent) and the Bay of Plenty (down 6.1 per cent).

The only major increases were in Canterbury (up 4.8 per cent), where the post-earthquake rebuild is now winding down, and in Taranaki and the West Coast (up 5.9 per cent), which have been buffeted by declining dairy and oil prices and the collapse of the coal industry.

Nationally, 117,954 unemployed people are now on jobseeker support, down just 0.1 per cent on a year ago. Numbers dropped in seven regions, again led by Auckland and the Bay of Plenty, but increased in nine regions, notably Taranaki (up 16.9 per cent) and Canterbury (up 16.4 per cent).

However sole parent support numbers dropped by a sharp 5.5 per cent to 65,422, down by more than a quarter from the recent peak of 89,056 in June 2011, reflecting tighter rules requiring sole parents to look for work as soon as their youngest child turns 3.

Numbers on the supported living payment (formerly invalid benefit) dropped by 0.8 per cent to 93,243.

The 280,177 people on all main benefits is 9.9 per cent of the working-age population, down from a peak of about 12.4 per cent at the worst point of the global financial crisis in June 2010.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 04 Dec 2016 01:58:45 Processing Time: 492ms