142 homes short not ‘whole story’

A report showing a lack of social and emergency housing in Southland "doesn’t even tell the whole story", sector leaders say.

The Southland Housing Assessment Report released last Wednesday showed a minimum of 142 social and emergency houses were needed immediately to cater to waiting lists which were "growing rapidly".

The report showed the number of people on waiting lists for state housing had nearly tripled over the past year. Habitat for Humanity general manager Paul Searancke said the figures were "definitely conservative".

There were a number of people not represented in the figures who didn’t make waiting lists for "various reason" and had nowhere to live, he said.

A lack of rental properties meant people in full employment also required Habitat’s assistance to find accommodation, pushing up waiting list numbers and affecting those with urgent requirements.

"When there’s no capacity at the top end, the people at the bottom slip out, and that’s what’s happening. More and more people are being pushed out," he said.

While Habitat had been addressing the issue for years, the situation had "deteriorated rapidly" in the past 18 months.

Emergency housing in Invercargill ran at about 96.7% occupancy rate for the past six to nine months, Salvation Army captain Perry Bray said.

"We’re pretty much full ... we’re sort of stuck in this area where we’ve got nowhere for these people to go. We’re at the point where the community as a whole are saying, ‘We need to sort this and we need to try and sort it now’."

Deputy mayor Rebecca Amundsen said the Invercargill City Council’s 217 social housing units were  at capacity.

"They are basically at capacity all the time, and we’ve got two waiting lists, a primary one and a secondary one and there’s about 40 people on our waiting lists and that’s consistent as well."

The Southland Housing Action Forum, representatives from  local businesses, local government and community groups presented the report to Housing Minister Phil Twyford last week.

A Government delegation was due to arrive in Southland before Christmas to begin assessing the issues.

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