Lockdown 2 increases demand for shelter


Catholic emergency housing providers in Auckland are struggling to cope with increased demand for shelter as the COVID lockdown continues to wreak havoc on employment.

Monte Cecilia Housing Trust chief executive officer Bernie Smith puts the increased demand down to reduced working hours and increasing unemployment.

Smith told NZ Catholic the Catholic housing trust received 10-15 inquiries a day during the second Auckland lockdown, however, 12 months ago they received 15 enquiries a week.

Smith’s statistics mirror figures released by the Ministry of Social Development showing the number of applicants on the Housing Register was 18,520 as of June 30, an increase of 50.4 per cent as against the same time last year.

Smith says the Trust is waiting with “bated breath” to see what will happen when the wage subsidy comes off.

He says the Trust needs 600 houses in the next 12 months.

The demand for housing is wider than Auckland and general concern is rising with the COVID-19 rent freeze due to be lifted on Friday.

Renters United says tenants are already being told their costs will go up and president of the organisation Robert Whitaker says it’s going to make life “really hard” for renters.

The advocacy group for tenants want the Government to limit rent increases to no more than inflation.

“For those on low incomes, it forces impossible choices between paying the bills, feeding themselves and their family, and losing their home. With the looming recession caused by COVID-19, renters face even greater hardship.”

However, NZ Property Investors Federation executive officer Sharon Cullwick says it’s effectively been eight months since landlords have been able to activate rent increases and some catch-up was inevitable.

“In total, that’s quite a long time to go without any increase in rent. So it won’t be surprising to see may landlords activating rent rises after the 26th.”

The housing markets in Wellington, Rotorua, Hawkes Bay, Queenstown and Dunedin are also under considerable pressure.

The average price for property in the Capital is now $689,000, while worsening housing markets in Rotorua and Queenstown means many people who hadn’t had to rely on community support were seeking it.

Prior to the 2017 General Election, some 600 people joined Bishop Justin Duckworth, Anglican bishop of Wellington, assistant Anglican bishop of Wellington, Eleanor Sanderson, and Cardinal Dew at a housing forum in the Anglican Cathedral of St Paul.

While Dew reminded those present that on a global scale, New Zealand had the worst rate of homelessness in the OECD – according to a Yale University study, Duckworth said the 2017 housing crisis was the greatest issue facing New Zealand.

Duckworth asked if the politicians actually cared.

“We’re talking about probably the issue that in the polls is the greatest issue facing New Zealanders. For me, this is no longer about housing, it’s just simply about do you (politicians) care? Do you actually care?”, Duckworth asked.


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