Opinion: who will foot the bill for housing needs?

Transitional housing is as it says on the tin, supposed to be something short-term between effective homelessness and being housed.

But that assumes that there is housing to transition to. In February of this year the report was that Dunedin is short of 1500 homes right now and will need to add at least 4400 homes in the next five years.

That is, unfortunately, before any consideration is made for the need to demo some of the near-slum quality of some of our rental stock, or any sacrifice of homes to the encroaching tide as part of climate change mitigation.

For comparison, StatsNZ reports that, for Dunedin, 495 consents were issued in the 12 months to January, and that over the last five years a total of 2447 consents have been issued.

Not all of those will have turned into actual homes. Financing and life circumstances can get in the way, and some of those will be to replace buildings knocked down to clear the section, so there will be some loss of housing stock as part of the normal process.

But even if all those applications turned into homes, in the next five years Dunedin would have to nearly double the creation of new homes to meet the known need.

For low-income families who aren’t able to step out of renting, that means someone else has to do the financing, project management, and eventual ownership.

Who is that going to be?

Someone with a great balance sheet, able to double the current tradie workforce, would be a preference.

Even if only a quarter of those 4400 homes is for low-income families, at an average $500,000 each (let’s assume higher density building for the economics of the thing) the cash outlay is $550 million.

So it’ll need to be someone also not facing a rates rebellion or a government pulling back on its expenditure.

We look in these situations to NGOs to help, and nationwide, community housing providers are housing about one in seven of those on the public housing register. And we can do a bit more. But not $550m worth in Dunedin alone.

So who?

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