Emergency Housing Review - next steps

Housing Social Development and Employment
  • Introduction of quality standards for suppliers of Emergency Housing
  • Expanding support services to people in Emergency Housing
  • Changes to Housing Support Products to help people get into, and stay in, private rental accommodation
  • Investing in supply initiatives to reduce demand on, or provide alternatives to, emergency housing for Māori
  • Locally-appropriate EH and alternative housing options to be investigated for Wellington and Hamilton.

Cabinet has agreed to all ten key actions from a review of the Emergency Housing system by the Ministry for Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Ministry of Social Development’s (MSD).

“The review confirms what we have been saying for some time about the housing crisis and the increased need for Emergency Housing; not enough houses have been built in the right places, for the right prices, and of the right types to meet people’s needs,” Minister for Housing Megan Woods said.

“As a Government we have supercharged the addition of public houses (10,700 and counting), rebuilt the sector’s ability to build new public housing, invested in increasing the supply of affordable housing, cut red tape to enable more houses to be built, and are investing billions in infrastructure like pipes and roads to enable new housing.

“Encouragingly, the number of people in Emergency Housing has fallen every month over the last year, but there will remain a need for Emergency Housing until all the houses we need, are built.

“Emergency Housing was introduced in 2016 but was not designed to be a long-term option. So it’s time to reset the system and improve how people enter Emergency Housing, how they are supported while there, ensure they have good quality accommodation, and increase support to help them exit.

“The review has been informed by our work in Rotorua, which has seen the numbers of people receiving an Emergency Housing Special Needs Grant, more than halve in a year and investment in supports for people in Emergency Housing. 

“Increasing supply of appropriate accommodation and wrap-around social and health support will be investigated for both Hamilton and Wellington.  Like Rotorua, these cities have a low number of affordable houses and high numbers of people in Emergency Housing. 

“Consultation with local agencies, iwi and Councils to consider appropriate solutions for these cities will get underway early in the new year, with Cabinet considering final proposals and a plan.

“A number of Iwi and Māori organisations have been developing solutions to housing insecurity in their communities. HUD and MSD will work with these Iwi to support these initiatives in areas of high demand.  Māori are disproportionally represented in Emergency Housing, and this work is a priority,” Megan Woods said.

“One of the key changes of the Emergency Housing system review will be how people who come to MSD for help are linked into appropriate housing, and how they are supported by social services while they are there,” Minister for Social Development and Employment Carmel Sepuloni said.

“We know many people in Emergency Housing have very complex needs. In order to help them move into transitional, or permanent housing we have extended intensive case management for those clients who require it in Emergency Housing.

“This case management is working and the review will increase this support to all clients requiring intensive case management through to 30 June 2024.

“MSD are also working on better entry pathways into housing support so that people are matched with the best option for them. This work will begin before Christmas with the piloting of a vacancy management tool for Transitional Housing.

“We will be introducing mutual obligations for both clients and Emergency Housing providers. This means quality standards for suppliers to ensure those who need to access Emergency Housing have a minimum standard of living conditions. We are also developing a resolution framework for the small group of people with poor behaviour in Emergency Housing.  

“There is a specific direction to MSD to introduce better and more consistent communication to clients so they are aware of their rights, and how to raise any issues they have with MSD.

“Also announced today are changes to the Housing Support Products. These products are grants that can be used to help people stay in their private rentals, or to secure private rentals, and reduce the need for Emergency Housing. The main grants available under this programme are bond, rent in advance and rent arrears assistance.

“The improved Housing Support Products will be available from the end of the first quarter of next year and can be accessed by beneficiaries, superannuitants as well as lower-income workers who need support.

“This is a significant change from the existing programmes which have inflexible hard limits and often don’t meet the needs of people, meaning they can’t get into or end up having to leave private rentals they could otherwise have afforded to stay in with a little financial support.

“Alongside this we will pilot a new bespoke non-recoverable fund for some people in housing hardship (such as Emergency Housing). It will aim to help people access and sustain a private tenancy where current support is inadequate. This payment is separate to, but will support, the actions agreed in the Emergency Housing review,” says Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni. 

MSD will have this pilot up and running later in 2023.

Changes to the Emergency Housing System and Housing Support Products received funding in Budget 2022 ($355m and $42m respectively).