The Government’s 2016 Budget, announced on May 26, has not been warmly welcomed by Christian agencies and others working with those in poverty. Several groups immediately noted what they described as an inadequate response to a housing crisis.
Auckland Action Against Poverty called the Budget pitiful in its response to
the New Zealand housing crisis. The Justice and Peace Commission of Auckland diocese is unhappy for the same reason.
Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand said that although the Budget took small steps
to invest in the wellbeing of families and individuals, Caritas notes a noticeable lack of investment in building new homes.
The executive officer of the NZ Council for Christian Social Services, Trevor
McGlinchey, said the council’s social housing provider members say they need
a capital injection of funding so they can build more houses, but the Budget hadn’t provided that.
The Justice and Peace Commission statement said vulnerable families are
living in overcrowded houses, and in garages and cars, especially in Auckland.
“Although more funding for emergency housing is welcome, it is only temporary relief that will help a small number of homeless people.
“What is urgently needed is more permanent housing to provide certainty
for families. It is unclear how $200 million for 750 more social housing places
over four years would have a significant impact on the present shortage. It is
likely that this will not provide more state houses, but will further the Government’s intentions to reduce state housing in a time of extreme need.”
The commission pointed out the possibility of upgrading vacant state houses
to make them available for families in need of housing.
The director of Caritas, Julianne Hickey, said the Budget did not substantially
address key issues and concerns of the vulnerable in relation to secure and
affordable housing, secure and adequate income and a social security system that meets the needs of those on a benefit.
“While emergency housing is essential, families need secure and affordable
housing in the long term to truly make a difference for future generations. Families and homes go together.”
Of the announced $258 million new spending over four years for housing,
only $38.7 million is budgeted to be spent in the next financial year. This is less than five per cent of the $857 million budgeted for a new tax administration system.
Mrs Hickey said new investment to support the most vulnerable children
is important, but every child needed a stable roof over their head and a family
needed an adequate and stable income in order to flourish.
“From our recent experiences in supporting families and individuals through
the benefit system, we see many struggling to meet their material needs and access their entitlements,” said Mrs Hickey.
Auckland Action Against Poverty (AAAP) spokeswoman Sue Bradford said
that with thousands of people homeless in Auckland alone, Bill English’s Budget was an insult to their desperate and immediate need.
“The Government says it will increase land supply in Auckland, but under the
current regime all this is likely to do is create more opportunities for private
developers and investors,” she stated in a press release.
“English confirms a $41m budget for emergency housing that offers no new
beds over the coming year, despite demand which grows by the day.
“He adds a tiny amount — $200m over four years — to the grants available to meet social housing need. Much of this will be soaked up by rising costs and subsidies without creating significant new housing,” she said.
NZCCSS executive officer Mr McGlinchey said that after the promising start in last year’s Budget of a $25 a week lift in benefit levels for families with children, this Budget disappoints in not building that further.
“We were hoping for a courageous Budget which addressed the underpinning
causes of child poverty and the need for social services — this Budget does not make a difference in the levels of inequality and desperate need for those with the least,” he said.
“Without this courageous approach there remains a very strong need for
community-based social services to support families in poverty. Outside of
small increases for the likes of Whanau Ora, family violence prevention, prisoner reintegration and the increases for the new system for supporting children in care, there is no indication of how the daily support services needed in our communities will get the additional funding they need.”
– Auckland Action Against Poverty describes itself as a direct action, advocacy and education group mobilising against the neoliberal agenda on jobs, welfare and poverty.
– The Justice and Peace Commission acts according to World Synod of Bishops
statement, Justice in the World, for justice and participation in the transformation of the world as a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel.
– Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand is the New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ agency
for justice, peace and development, and incorporates Mahitahi-Catholic Overseas Volunteers.
– New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services is the umbrella organisation of social service church agencies in Aotearoa. Its members are Anglican Care Network, Baptist Churches of Aotearoa New Zealand, Catholic Social Services, Presbyterian Support NZ, the Methodist Church and the Salvation Army.