YESTERDAY was World Homeless Day, an annual day that we should not have to mark, but our Government acknowledges that homelessness has always been, and always will be, an issue for some people.
We know many New Zealanders are concerned about housing and housing affordability -- from enough quality rentals to more affordable homes for first-home buyers and more housing for those who need a hand-up.
The Government is acutely aware of the New Zealanders who need more support, from emergency accommodation through to permanent housing.
It is not right that people live on the street, in cars, garages and overcrowded homes.
The Government feels very strongly the responsibility to make sure we are meeting the needs of our most vulnerable. We have already identified the issues and we are working hard on solutions.
It is not an easy task. I think we all agree housing is a complex issue.
We deal with real people and their real issues. That means that simple housing solutions, on their own, are never going to be a nice, neat fix.
My focus is on getting people in critical need somewhere warm, dry and safe to live, addressing their issues, then helping them transition into permanent and sustainable housing.
We are 18 months into the Social Housing Reform Programme the Prime Minister announced at the start of last year and we are making good progress.
A key element is increasing community ownership of social housing to ensure people receive the best possible support.
We have made the Ministry of Social Development in charge of purchasing social housing and given new funding streams and up-front cash to community housing providers, not just Housing New Zealand.
This is a major change to the way we provide social houses and a significant opportunity for community providers.
Last month I announced extra funding of $24.4 million for community housing providers in Auckland, on top of $120.1 million announced in the Budget -- a total of $144.5 million.
This will help more community housing providers grow their stock and to offer tenancy management and wraparound services.
Housing New Zealand is investing heavily in its housing stock to get the right houses of the right size in the right place to meet current demand.
An example of the renewal of our housing stock is the recent announcement that 300 Housing New Zealand properties will be developed into about 1200 new homes in Northcote, Auckland.
We are housing close to 160 people a week, but we need to ensure that valuable social housing is not taken up by people who don't need the support at the expense of those who do.
We have completed nearly 3000 tenancy reviews, with 788 people able to move out of social housing and a further 113 people buying their own homes.
That's given us 900 houses back that we can use for people in desperate need.
We are helping people to move out of Auckland where the need is most acute, and into regions offering more jobs and more houses, more opportunities and a better standard of living.
House prices and the flow-on rental prices are putting additional pressures on our poorest families. It is part of the reason why we have seen greater demand for emergency housing over the last year.
We have started a non-recoverable grant for people who need urgent accommodation and there are no contracted places available. Work and Income has made hundreds of grants since they were introduced.
We are spending $9 million on two innovative ways that community organisations can help people into housing and sustain their tenancies.
Over the coming months, we will deliver even more emergency and medium-term housing places, with the aim that they are operated by providers who can offer wraparound services to tenants.
We'll be pulling a number of levers. They include buying motels, leasing suitable houses, and building new ones for emergency places.
There are pockets of land the Government has reserved for schools, hospitals and transport to be built on over the next 10 to 20 years that are sitting empty now -- so we will be putting modular housing and fast "stick builds" on these sites.
This is an agile and innovative response to meet the current, temporary need.
Over coming months we expect to make even more announcements on the substantial work we are doing. We take seriously our responsibility to take care of vulnerable New Zealanders, and to help those who able, to help themselves.