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Jacinda Ardern. Photo/RNZ

Government announces $300m homelessness action plan

The government is ramping up its efforts to stop using motels for emergency housing, announcing an extra 1000 transitional housing places will be ready by the end of the year.

But those staying in motels for more than seven days will have to start making a 25 percent payment for it.

Speaking at the opening of Auckland City Mission's new safe haven service for homeless women, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the government's Aotearoa New Zealand Homelessness Action Plan.

The announcement said the $300 million plan promised to reduce demand for emergency motel accommodation by adding 1000 new transitional housing places on top of the 1300 places introduced since the government was formed.

Budget 2019 had allocated funding for to maintain more than 2800 such places.

Housing Minister Megan Woods said motels were only ever intended as short-term emergency accommodation of up to seven days, but the average length of stay has increased to over seven weeks.

"Motels are not a suitable environment for vulnerable individuals, families and whānau and they are also not cost effective," she said.

"Alongside our state house build, this government will increase the supply of temporary accommodation to reduce the use of motels for emergency housing."

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Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni said at the moment, emergency accommodation is the only form of housing where tenants aren't required to make any payment contribution.

"We want to make housing costs as consistent and fair as possible for all families and people who receive government housing support - no matter what type of housing they're in," she said.

"We need to ensure that emergency accommodation is reserved for those who need it most and that there is parity between those receiving different types of housing support," Carmel Sepuloni said.

The plan would also provide another $70 million for support programmes.

Government action plan new initiatives:

  • $175m for 1000 additional transitional housing places by the end of 2020
  • $20m to work with Māori to prevent homelessness, expand housing supply delivered by Māori
  • $13.5m to pilot a rapid re-housing approach for people receiving Emergency Housing Special Needs Grants
  • $8.7m for a service helping landlords put MSD clients in private rentals
  • $9.3m to support children in emergency housing, e.g. transport to school or early childhood education

Extra funding for support services:

  • +$25.6m to the Sustaining Tenancies programme
  • +$17.5m for services for young people moving from Oranga Tamariki care into accommodation
  • +$16.3m for services helping acute mental health and addiction inpatients moving into communities
  • +$19.8m to expand services for people in emergency housing longer than 7 nights
  • +$740,000 to programmes providing skills and confidence in managing a private rental

Documents released with the announcement said other public housing was expected to increase by 1600 homes a year, to have provided about 6400 extra homes by June 2022.

"This government inherited a homelessness crisis decades in the making when we took office, that will take time to fix. The previous government left us with a chronic shortage of houses and were selling off state houses that people desperately needed," Ardern said.