The housing crisis needs an urgent response: increased housing support for low-income households. In the short term, this means changes to the Accommodation Supplement and other housing supports. This needs to genuinely meet housing costs for those low-income households that have high housing costs relative to incomes, and support a pathway into more secure housing. The Accommodation Supplement changes need to work together with other welfare benefits to achieve income adequacy for lower-income households.
Changes to the Accommodation Supplement need to be supported by other housing policy measures to further expand assisted homeownership and to ensure fairness in rent levels.
The Salvation Army State of the Nation Report 2022 Navigating the Rapids Whakatere Ana I Ngā Tere released in February 2022 describes the housing situation for those on low incomes as having gone beyond crisis to what can only now be described as a catastrophe. Despite notable increases in housing supply—both of social housing and growth in overall building consents for housing—house prices and rents have accelerated well ahead of growth in incomes. The impact hits hardest for those already on the margins of the housing market. This is alongside the other health and social impacts of the pandemic, with homelessness, the need for emergency and transitional housing and the number of those waiting for social housing on the public housing register rising enormously.
This situation affecting the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in low-income households requires an urgent policy response alongside other measures to increase the availability of affordable housing in the medium to long term. A short-term response addresses the current affordability crisis directly through increased income transfers and housing subsidies. The clear aim is to reduce or prevent homelessness and household overcrowding, by assisting people to stay in their existing housing and/or secure new rental tenancies they can afford to sustain.
These measures help stabilise people’s lives, reduce social harms and promote wellbeing. They complement the other aspects of housing policy that seeks to increase the number of homes being built, designing good communities to live in and addressing the quality issues of warm and dry homes.
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Paper by Paul Barber, Senior Social Policy Analyst, SPPU