OPINION: Housing results just the beginning

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By Jo Luxton

It has been nine years since state houses were built in Timaru.

This fact alone proves the previous government was little more than an ill-equipped deer in the headlights of our nation’s housing crisis – a crisis which drove demand to record highs, saw our families left homeless, in limbo on housing waiting lists or putting up with unhealthy rentals which only increased their medical bills.

In just 365 days, this Government has taken swift action on the core issues knee-capping our community’s wellbeing – opening access to education, making healthcare more affordable and housing New Zealand.

As a result, I am proud to say that more Kiwis right here in Timaru can now make a house a home. This is thanks to five new state homes opening recently, with three more to be completed shortly.

These warm, healthy homes from Minister Phil Twyford’s announced regional housing programme, will soon be improving the health outcomes and general wellbeing of their first tenants.

This means an end to living in limbo for many of the 26 Kiwis and their families who were on the social housing register for Timaru last June.

This means a sign of genuine hope for our whanau in need, as planning begins on potentially developing more homes across South Canterbury.

New Zealanders can see, the solution was common sense; in a housing crisis, you don’t sell off state houses, you build more.

Every home we build means one fewer family wondering where they’re going to sleep.

This Government is committed to building 6400 public housing places over the next four years, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we over-deliver.

Earlier this year, our target was to create 1500 additional places for the homeless over winter. We created 1764.

We did this by rolling up our sleeves and focusing on delivering real results for real New Zealanders.

In line with this kaupapa, we’re also making public housing tenancy reviews fairer.

By making households where the tenant or their partner has a permanent or severe disability/health condition, or is aged 65 or older, exempt, we are protecting our most vulnerable, providing stability for long-term tenants, and freeing up homes for people in need.

Families who have dependent children aged 18 and under will also be freed from this unnecessary stress, as will tenants who are providing full-time care for a person other than their spouse or partner who would otherwise need hospital level or residential care.

I am proud of the empathy of this Government in making these overdue changes happen.

There is a lot more to do in the housing space, and heading into our second year, you will see we are just getting started.

If you are a community housing provider who would like to work with us, or someone who would like to know more about our plan for public housing, be sure to visit msd.govt.nz/about-msd-and-our-work/work-programmes/social-housing/index.html for more information.

Jo Luxton is a South Canterbury-based Labour list MP.