A delegation led by Habitat for Humanity NZ CEO Claire Szabó and Director Selwyn Screen this morning presented a submission to the cross-party parliamentary inquiry on homelessness this morning. Below is included the Habitat for Humanity NZ written submission to the cross-party inquiry submitted earlier this month.12 August, 2016
Official definition of homelessnessThe definition of homelessness created by Statistics New Zealand is problematic in that it includes the arguably value-laden term “no other options” as a prerequisite for inclusion in the category. We would argue that, given this inclusion, a judgement has to be made as to whether a person has “other options” or not, and that this judgement inevitably involves a value proposition as to what people ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ be considering as legitimate options. Further, people who “have the means to acquire (housing) through the usual channels, e.g. buying or renting” are excluded from the definition; this is problematic where there are fundamental failures within the ‘usual channels.’
Current scale of homelessness, whether it is changing, and causesA diagram of the NZ Housing Continuum developed by Community Housing Aotearoa (2015), is critical both to our understanding of housing in NZ generally, and to the development and deepening of our current housing crisis. The diagram segments the housing market along a spectrum as follows:
- Emergency housing at one extreme end of the spectrum, provided by Community Housing Organisations (CHO’s)
- Fully supported rental, provided by Housing NZ (HNZ) and CHO’s
- Assisted rental, provided by HNZ and CHO’s
- Assisted rental
- Affordable assisted ownership, provided by CHO’s (including Habitat for Humanity)
- Market affordable, provided by CHO’s and the private sector
- Market affordable
- Market rental, provided by the private sector
- Full market, provided by the market – at the other extreme end of the spectrum
The current crisis has seen:
- A reduction in people achieving home ownership through the market
- A reduction in access to state housing
- An increase in demand at a rate higher than the rate of supply
- The elimination of grants or even loans to the community sector to build houses
As predicted by the housing continuum and evidenced by our own data, where there is a failure across the continuum in permanent housing, homelessness ensues.
Possible policy responsesAddressing homelessness requires permanent solutions, not just emergency housing. In other words, an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff is not enough – what use is an ambulance if it has no hospital to take its patients to? It is essential that permanent solutions are restored to stem the flow of people into homelessness.
Given the failure of market solutions to house people, and given the increasing percentage of median income required for eligibility for assistance into home ownership, we require policy interventions to address both income and house prices.
It will also be vital that policy supports Maori-led solutions across the housing continuum.
Experiences of different groups and policy responsesOf particularly urgent concern is the number of Maori people experiencing homelessness (more than 50% of the homeless population and growing); this deserves policy attention, ideally in the form of seeking Maori-led responses. The work of Te Puea Marae and Manurewa Marae in Auckland has been an example for all of us, and has sent us to school on the issues of generosity and expressions of care and concern.
Of particular note also are the large and growing numbers of women sleeping rough; an area for significant concern.
Finally, we note the importance of responding to particular vulnerable populations including the elderly, people with disabilities and children.