Plans to build 8000 new public houses would help the more than 400 Auckland rough sleepers - who moved into temporary accommodation during the Covid-19 lockdown - find permanent homes, Mayor Phil Goff says.
The Government announced in today's Budget it would borrow $5 billion in the next four to five years to build the state and transitional houses in partnership with housing providers.
Goff hoped up to 2600 would be built in Auckland, providing an opportunity to ease the number of city homeless.
"We now need to find permanent solutions to their plight, not simply dump them back on the street," he said.
It comes as the state housing waiting list is at a record high of about 15,000, almost three times as much as it was when the Government came to power in 2017.
Yet while community housing providers were thrilled to step up and help build the homes, they warned many more were needed.
Community Housing Aotearoa chief executive Scott Figenshow said the 8000 new homes promised in Budget 2020 was only about half of the number of people on the public housing waiting list.
"The Government's announcement of an additional 8000 public and transitional houses falls well short of what's needed to fix New Zealand's housing crisis," he said.
"We've been calling for 15,000 additional social housing places since 2014. If we had those places now, that would go some way to reducing the misery of homelessness that we are continuing to see," Figenshow said.
The 8000 new homes will be split between 6000 state houses and 2000 transitional homes and will come on top of the 6400 public houses the Government earlier said it would build by 2022 and the 1000 transitional homes it announced in February.
About 70 per cent would be built by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, while 30 per cent would be built by community housing providers - however, they would be paid for and owned by the Government.
This would differ from the previous National-led Government's scheme, in which community providers built state homes and then owned and rented them out.
Figenshow said community housing providers had shovel-ready projects that could kick off if the Government chose to instead fund them.
A quick poll of just 12 of the 57 organisations registered as community housing providers showed they had 63 housing developments ready to go in 13 regions across the country.
These totalled 2638 homes with a total development cost of $783 million, Figenshow said.
Support group Lifewise welcomed the 8000 new public houses but cautioned against a "reliance on transitional and emergency housing".
"[We] would like to see robust programmes in place to move people into sustainable, long-term housing. If these programmes aren't in place, people can become stuck in a cycle of substandard housing, or end up on the streets again," chief executive Jo Denvir said.
Housing Minister Megan Woods said the new building programme would also give a boost to builders.
"This multi-year investment sends a strong signal to the construction sector so it can plan with certainty to secure investment, retain staff and further enhance the skills of its workforce," she said.
"The economic impact of more than $5 billion of construction activity will be significant."
Budget 2020 also contained a $56 million fund to allow low-income families in 9000 more homes to have their houses insulated and heated.
The Green Building Council welcomed the move but said a report it released this week showed New Zealand still had half a million damp and mouldy private homes.
However, if 120,000 of those were fitted to healthy standards, it could deliver a net benefit of between $1.5 billion and $3.1 billion to the country.
The Budget was a missed chance to target this and consequently left hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders in the cold, the council said.
COMMUNITY HOUSING HELPING NURSE GRAND MOTHER INTO NEW CAREER
Auckland grand mum Huia Smith had been one of thousands of Kiwis living in transitional housing until - on the eve of lockdown - she got the keys to her own house.
She quickly made the move into the brand new South Auckland public house in Addison - developed by non-profit group CORT Community Housing - with barely a moment to spare before the country went into its hardline Covid-19 lockdown.
Smith had been thankful for her transitional accommodation in Manurewa, a one bedroom room with kitchenette and toilet.
"But if I was there during lockdown, I would have just been staying in my little room the whole time," she said.
At her modern, new home she has a small garden and courtyard.
"One bedrooms aren't normally that big, but this is really spacious," she said.
The space, stability and peace has even allowed her to restart her online studies for a Bachelor degree in Nursing Māori.
"I had earlier started studying nursing. I did it for six months, but I had to defer it because I needed space that I didn't have," Smith, aged in her 50s, said.
"But now I've got my space I can do it and so started back up again."
Smith earlier spent three years on the public housing waiting list. She had raised her family in private rentals, but once her kids got older and moved out, she was left with a big, old three-bedroom house.
"I was like, 'I can't afford this'," she said.
She first moved in with her parents, but then her daughter asked her to stay with her instead.
"I had been with her ever since, but then the kids were getting a bit bigger and older and there was not enough room."
Smith first moved into a motel, before support group Lifewise helped her into transitional housing and then CORT Community Housing's new complex of 19 units in Addison.
It's located five minutes from Smith's part time job and her daughter.
And now lockdown's ended, it's got room for visitors.
"I've got seven grand children, so I can't have them all over at once, so they have turns instead," she said with a laugh.
"But it is great, they like this place."