Minister shocked at housing shortfall

Phil Twyford
Phil Twyford

The Government says it has "inherited a mess'' after newly released figures on the country's housing crisis put the national shortfall at more than 70,000 homes.

It is between 30,000 and 35,000 more than the previous government's housing shortage estimate.

"This is a social and economic disaster for the country,'' Housing Minister Phil Twyford said yesterday.

"It's quite complex and it's going to require bold reform on a number of fronts sustained over a number of years.''

He was commenting on new details about the scale of the nation's housing crisis set out in a briefing to the incoming minister of housing.

The Government had "inherited a mess'', Mr Twyford said.

The report was among hundreds of briefings to incoming ministers (Bims) released yesterday.

"I was shocked to see a shortfall of housing of 71,000 for the country,'' he said.

"That's information I'm sure the past government had and chose not to release.

"But let's be frank about this. The former government was in full-scale denial about the scale of the housing crisis.

"What the government officials told us [in the briefing] is there's a housing crisis and it's having huge social and economic effects, locking people out of home ownership, [and creating] record levels of homelessness.''

The scale of the crisis was evidenced by the fact the Government was spending $100,000 per day on motels as emergency housing for people who could not find affordable rental accommodation, he said.

The briefing had set out a range of tools the Government was already embracing, including reforms to the way the Government dealt with homelessness, and a "massive change when it comes to getting Government back in the business of building affordable houses for young Kiwi families''.

The former housing minister Nick Smith hit back at the report, claiming officials had written the briefings to echo the Government's stance.

"What is quite clear [is] the Bim in the housing area has been redrafted in response to concerns from its new minister.''

He said the multiple briefings lacked the usual neutrality and appeared to have been crafted and "specifically written around key policies he wants to drive''.

Hundreds of documents are on the Parliament website, giving ministers a rundown on their departments and giving them good and bad news.

Among other points in the briefings:

• Housing NZ is asking for a long-term financial strategy so it can cope with the social housing demand

• The Education Review Office is worried about the quality of some home-based early childhood services

• The Ministry for the Environment urgently wants a tax on bottled water and says demand for fresh water is going to soar

• The Department of Conservation is seriously worried about the plight of threatened species


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