Commitment to improved social housing

  • Paula Bennett
Social Housing Budget 2015

Putting tenants first and promoting housing independence is central to the Government’s continued investment in social housing, Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett says.

“Budget 2015 ensures the Government can take the next crucial steps to provide more social housing for those New Zealanders who most need it.

“Housing needs range from emergency and social housing right through to affordable housing and we are focused on helping people on that journey to housing independence where appropriate.

“The Social Housing Reform Programme, announced in January, includes a range of initiatives to increase the supply of social housing, better match tenants to properties that fit their needs, and back vulnerable New Zealanders,” Mrs Bennett says.

Budget 2015 supports implementation of the reform programme with $35 million in new operating expenditure over four years, and around $30 million from reprioritisation of funds previously earmarked for capital grants through the Social Housing Fund.

“There are now three ministers and four departments working together to deliver solutions across the housing continuum, and this funding reflects our commitment to delivering results.

“It’s important the programme has the operational resources required to see more vulnerable people get access to housing that suits their needs.”

The Government is encouraging more innovative and diverse ownership of social housing by growing the community housing sector. Consultation is underway to transfer between 1,000 and 2,000 Housing New Zealand properties to registered Community Housing Providers by the end of this year. 

“We are making a clear choice to support people, as opposed to being single-mindedly focused on how many properties the Government owns.

“That attitude was failing taxpayers and most of all it was failing the tenants, who need assistance to lead more independent lives.

“As we’ve seen overseas, community housing providers are closer to tenants they know the communities they work in, and can better provide wrap-around services many tenants need,” Mrs Bennett says.

The Government will be introducing as priority legislation the Social Housing Reform (Flexible Purchasing and Remedial Matters) Bill to enable a more flexible approach to contracting with social housing providers.

The Bill ensures that payments for residential social housing contracts under these agreements are GST exempt and clarifies that Housing New Zealand is no longer required to provide policy advice to Ministers.  This role has been undertaken by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment since 2011. 

Minor changes are being made to KiwiSaver so that membership in a complying superannuation scheme will count towards the three-year eligibility for first-home withdrawal rules in the KiwiSaver Act. This means more KiwiSaver members have access to their savings to assist with the purchase of a first home.

Initiatives in the reform programme already announced include:

  • Ensuring more people can get housing support by spending $154 million over the next three years to house 3,000 more tenants with the Income Related Rent Subsidy, taking the total available from about 62,000 currently, to around 65,000 tenancies by 2017/18.
  • $500,000 funding boost for emergency housing providers, and a wider review to ensure the sector can develop a more integrated approach to working with some of our most vulnerable people.
  • Providing short-term housing in Christchurch for 30 families at a time by working with two Community Housing Providers.
  • Ensuring that properties used for social housing fits demand from tenants through a strategic review of Housing New Zealand and its asset management plans.
  • Supporting moves to housing independence, where appropriate by conducting an additional 3,000 tenancy reviews over the next two years and providing financial assistance to those able to move into private rental.
  • Increasing affordable housing supply, particularly in Auckland by freeing up more land for affordable housing and rejuvenating neighbourhoods with a wider mix of housing.

Combined with the wider package to address material hardship, the Social Housing Reform Programme is an important part of the Government’s commitment to improving the lives of vulnerable New Zealanders.