In motel rooms around north Rodney there are families, – mainly women, children and youth – living in emergency housing accommodation, hoping as winter settles in that they may find an affordable, permanent, warm and dry home. However, as the weeks turn to months, it becomes apparent after multiple viewings, and declines from private rentals and placing themselves on the social housing register in the hope that one of the 55 social houses in north Rodney becomes available, what was considered a temporary housing measure in a motel room, has now become a long-term one.
The vulnerability of many families in our area and across the nation is alarming, often due to circumstances beyond their control. Families with limited support structures in place can suddenly and unexpectedly find themselves homeless. This may be for several reasons, such as illegal or short notice given, a relationship breakdown or financial pressures. With a national waitlist on the housing register of 107,043, and a large proportion of the waitlist based in the Auckland region, the median time to be housed is currently sitting around 250 days. For families locally, this either means leaving the area to secure public housing or staying in the hope that housing becomes available locally. However, a lack of local housing stock to fill the need and intense competition for private housing from more well-resourced applicants means this quickly becomes a circle of despair.
Currently, there are 35,291 public homes in Auckland. In the 2018 census, there were 1.9 million homes in Aotearoa with 94,000 homes empty, which is 1/20 homes untenanted, and 102,000 living with severe deprivation in housing conditions such as on the streets, overcrowding and couch surfing. These are the hidden homeless, of which a high portion are youth and Māori and Pasifika families. These numbers would have undoubtedly increased since this census was taken. People are continuing to fall out of housing as we have often looked at housing through a business lens rather from a human rights lens. This has led to gross inequalities and injustices in our nation regarding housing.
In 2020, the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to housing, Leilani Farha, while visiting NZ, called our housing a national disgrace. Even with the Labour government’s Kiwi Build plan and promise to build 10,000 homes over 10 years, there has been difficulty reaching target due to the pandemic, building supply shortages and the consent processes to build new homes.
Perhaps with such a large number of families needing homes, it is time to lobby locally with MPs and councils to ask for more social housing to be included in our zoning for new development where developers are compelled to deliver, a certain proportion of affordable housing – housing delivered to the market at a particular set price point, which must be retained in perpetuity as affordable housing. There is no quick fix model to our national housing crisis. However, raising awareness to what is happening for others in our local communities, and a discussion about local solutions with multiple stakeholders and an eye to successful social housing models overseas, could be a place to begin.