By David Hargreaves
The Government spent over $6 million of taxpayers' money a day in the first quarter of the year (a total of $550 million) putting a roof over Kiwis' heads - but the waiting list for social housing grew.
And the Labour Party is slamming the latest emergency housing grants figures as "a very expensive band aid".
In releasing the latest Social Housing Quarterly Report from the Ministry of Social Development, Social Housing Minister Amy Adams says the increase in growth of the Housing Register (waiting list) "has slowed".
"At the end of March, there were 4865 applicants on the register – up just 2% from 4771 in the previous quarter," she said.
Adams said the Government was "helping more people than before, and sooner. 1800 families were helped off the register into suitable housing, and they spent less time waiting to be housed.”
The median time to house people was down 8% she said.
The Ministry's figures on the registry including by priority of needs, which are not included in the latest report, show that the number of Priority A people - those considered ‘at risk’ and including "households with a severe and persistent housing need that must be addressed immediately" has risen by 7.3% in the past quarter to 3422.
The number of 'Priority A' people has increased by 56.4% (from 2188) in the past year, while the overall number of people on the register has risen by 37.1%.
Adams does not refer to those figures in her release.
She says in the latest quarter 9218 emergency housing Special Needs Grants were paid to 2616 clients – totaling $8.8 million.
"We promised to look after those needing emergency housing and we’re delivering on that – supporting hundreds of New Zealanders with a safety net while we find them more sustainable housing."
Labour's housing spokesperson Phil Twyford styled the emergency housing grants figures as "another blow out in spending on putting homeless people up in motels".
"The Government is renting motel rooms at a rate of $33 million a year. It’s a very expensive band-aid."
Twyford said the March grants figure was up by 358 on the December quarter figure, while the $8.8 million spend in the March quarter was up from $7.7 million in the previous quarter.
"This means the Government has spent $16.6 million in six months issuing 18,078 grants to struggling families.
"At this rate the Government will have made 36,000 grants costing $33 million in the first year instead of providing 1,400 grants costing $2 million as expected.
"The fact the Government thought $2 million would be enough for a year shows how painfully out of touch they are."
Adams says as more transitional and social housing is secured, "we expect the need for the Special Needs Grant to decrease. New Zealanders needing housing support will continue to get it".
She says the latest figures "underscore the importance of our plan to grow the number of social houses available, from 66,000 today to 72,000 over the next three years".