Big drop in transitional housing

Photo: ODT files
Photo: ODT files
The chances of a homeless person in the South getting the keys to a home through the government’s transitional housing scheme seem to be nose diving, according to data unearthed by the Otago Daily Times.

Only 7% of 432 individuals in the scheme in the South last year were recorded by the government as moving into a social home or private rental, compared with more than 66% seven years ago.

Data from other New Zealand regions also shows a downward trend. In Auckland and Canterbury over the same seven-year period, the rate fell from 45% to 12% and 33% to 5% respectively.

Some more housing success stories may be hidden in the data, which was released by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) following an Official Information Act request from the Otago Daily Times.

Nearly 90% of people in the scheme in the South were recorded as having "other" or "unknown" housing outcomes in 2023, with similar rates of unclear outcomes across New Zealand.

A note on the data said unknown housing outcomes was because "the destination upon exit is unclear, unknown or not reported".

Charities are contracted by HUD to run the scheme.

Last year, the data recorded 10,530 people in the scheme, compared with 5286 in 2017.

The Salvation Army and Emerge Aotearoa are the largest providers of the scheme in Dunedin and use motels and some houses for the scheme’s temporary accommodation.

"When clients move on from transitional housing, they are offered ongoing support for up to 12 weeks to help them settle into their new home," HUD general manager for partnerships William Barris said.

"However, clients are not obliged to take up these offers, or to inform their support services provider where they are moving on to when their housing outcome has not been facilitated by that provider.

"Therefore, the data we have on where transitional housing clients move to is not comprehensive."

The data set released to the ODT recorded a dramatic drop in people in the scheme in the South getting a social home — from 40% to under 3% over the seven-year period. The percentage getting a private rental stayed around 20% a year for six years — but then fell sharply last year to under 5%.

Several homeless people said they were planning to leave the city to try their luck elsewhere, after a time in transitional housing, despite the housing crisis being a national problem.

Salvation Army national transitional housing leader Laurette Farr pointed to the housing crisis and the number of applicants for state housing far exceeding supply. Transitional housing was a necessary solution to "allow the market to catch up to the demand", she said.

The charity’s data for the year ending March 2024 indicated two out of three people in the organisation’s Dunedin transitional housing scheme had gone into "long-term accommodation" and the rest were still in the scheme.

Ms Farr said the charity was seeing increasingly complex and severe mental health issues among those in the scheme.

An independent review of state housing provider Kainga Ora, released last week, reported on research from the Ministry of Social Development that showed 22% of people waiting for a home on the government’s social housing register had received mental health services compared with 10% of those in social housing.