by Greta Yeoman
Government spending on emergency housing grants has increased dramatically in South Canterbury, new data shows.
Between April 1 and June 30, the Ministry of Social Development made 25 emergency housing grants worth a total of $13,238 to 14 clients in Timaru, data released by the government last week shows.
25 more state houses for Timaru
Timaru is set to get 25 more state houses by 2022, the Government announced last week.
Housing Minister Phil Twyford announced the Public Housing Plan last Friday, which would aim to provide an additional 25 houses in the South Canterbury town in the next four years.
Eight of them would be one-bedroom houses, four would be two-bedroom places, another four would be three-bedroom homes and the remaining four houses would consist of four or more bedrooms.
The new houses would bring the total number of state housing properties in Timaru to 416 by the end of year.
The Waitaki District was also set to gain 10 new houses, five of which would be one-bedroom properties and the other five would be two-bedroom homes.
The 25 houses included nine Timaru state houses announced earlier this year.
A Housing New Zealand spokesman said while three of the houses “could not be developed at this stage”, six houses were in progress.
He said the three potential sites “just weren’t viable to develop at this point in time”.
One of the state houses was completed and another two were due for completion next month.
The remaining three homes would be finished and available to tenants by November.
This compares with 15 grants worth a total of $8507 made to six clients in the quarter from January 1 to March 31 and $10,431 in grants made to six clients in the quarter from November 1 to December 31 last year.
The ministry’s acting regional director, Trinity Mennell, said the nationwide housing shortage was making it more difficult for people to find places to live and those trends were reflected in the South Canterbury figures.
“One reason we believe more people are coming forward for help with housing is that we’ve made it really clear that they should come to us if they can’t find somewhere suitable to live.
“Winter also exacerbates any issues that people are having with unsuitable housing.”
Further south, the amount paid out to Waitaki residents had increased but client numbers had declined.
The data showed the ministry paid out 20 grants totalling $12,882 to nine clients between April and June, while previously funding 18 grants totalling $10,390 to 10 clients between January and March.
Ms Mennell said that while the ministry sought to find public or transitional housing or private rentals for those needing housing support, it made emergency housing grants if those options were not available, she said.
This would often be a motel or other short-term accommodation, she said.
Further south, in Waimate, while client numbers were redacted due to the small number, the amount of housing grants had jumped from $130 to more than $3900.
The Mackenzie district was the only area on the decline, financial support for emergency housing dropping from $360 to zero.
The growth in government-funded housing support follows similar indications of need from South Canterbury’s social service agencies earlier this year.
The Timaru Salvation Army told The Courier in July it had provided emergency accommodation in motels seven times since the start of the year, compared with 10 emergency placements during the whole of last year.
Anglican Care South Canterbury social justice advocate Ruth Swale had also reported she knew of several people either sleeping rough or in “precarious living situations” around the region.
State housing numbers also on the rise
While government funding for emergency housing in South Canterbury has increased, data shows the number of state housing places in the region is also on the rise.
The number of Timaru tenants in social housing had grown from 403 to 409 between March 31 and June 30, but the list of applicants to the Social Housing Register in the town had remained at 46.
The number of applicants on the register in the Mackenzie District was redacted because of the low number, but the number of state housing tenants had increased from zero in the previous quarter.
Waimate’s public housing places also increased, from 22 to 23.
The town’s target of providing one transitional housing place had not been met during this period.
Timaru had also had a target of providing four transitional housing places, but only one had been filled by the end of June.
The number of applications to the register in the Waitaki District had dropped from 20 to 17, but the number of public housing places increased from 112 to 113.
The district had also had one transitional housing place filled, as was the area’s target.