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New Zealand

Politicians berated over blame game in dealing with housing crisis

Radio New Zealand logo Radio New Zealand 14/01/2020 Jonathan Mitchell
a small town with a mountain in the background © 123rf

The political tit for tat between the Labour-led government and the National Party is being blamed for getting in the way of dealing with the root causes of New Zealand's housing crisis.

Recently released figures show the waitlist for public housing has hit a record high - reaching nearly 14,500 households.

National is blaming Labour's housing policies for the growing waitlist, but Labour says after nine years of neglect under National, it has delivered more than 3000 state housing places since coming to power.

However, housing advocates say that finger pointing is getting in the way of building a solution.

The number of families and individuals waiting for public housing has more than doubled from the roughly 6000 on the list shortly after the 2017 election.

The demand is greatest in Auckland, along with the East Coast, Bay of Plenty, Waikato and Canterbury.

Former Christchurch Mayor Garry Moore now chairs a group of executives in the community housing sector.

He said he was sick of the political points scoring over the housing crisis.

"The political parties say 'I built 10 houses and you only built eight' and that's the level of conversation that's not healthy," he said.

Moore said all agencies needed to work together to get houses built and people living in them.

"There are examples from North Cape to Bluff of where communities are working really, really well together - and what we have to do is look at it as a system," he said.

The East Coast is one key area that stands out - in data released by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, more than 1400 were waiting to get into a house.

Flaxmere ward councillor Henare O'Keefe said the situation had been getting worse and worse, because of a lack of policy and action.

"All of the above [and] I would suggest you could add to that a lack of empathy and sympathy ... people being negligent," he said.

He said politics had got in the way of the housing crisis and houses were not being built fast enough.

"I just said to someone the other day 'we build 1000 houses tonight - it still wouldn't be enough' so the short answer to that is no - the demand far outweighs the supply," he said.

Community Housing Aotearoa vice chief executive Chris Glaudel said successive governments had failed to properly invest in housing for decades and it was now at crisis point.

Community Housing Aotearoa is an organisation that represents non-government housing providers.

"At the end of the '80s - early '90s - that investment dropped off and while we were able to ride on that prior generations' investment for a long time - it's finally caught up with us," Glaudel said.

He said it would not be a quick fix either, especially as communities grow.

"Developing the necessary infrastructure - both the roads and the water - but also the community infrastructure of schools and kindies and things - it takes a lot to plan and to put those into place," he said.

Associate Housing Minister Kris Faafoi told RNZ in a statement that the government has already delivered more than 3000 state housing places, with another 2500 to be delivered by June.

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