Emergency & transitional housing

Our emergency housing system should uplift the dignity and human rights of the people it seeks to help. In September 2022, the Human Rights Commission invited those living in emergency and transitional accommodation to share their experiences with us to inform our Housing Inquiry. Many people came forward, including residents of such housing and service providers. Their experiences, outlined in a report by the Human Rights Commission, paint a sobering picture of a system that is failing to meet human rights standards, particularly in emergency accommodation.

The report provides, for the first time, an outline of the human rights obligations of government for the emergency housing system, alongside findings and recommendations for change. We are very grateful to everyone who shared their experiences and ideas with us. Alongside the failings, we heard of many innovative and deeply compassionate efforts to lift people out of homelessness. That’s how, in the future, our emergency housing system can and should be defined.

Download the report: Homelessness and human rights: A review of the emergency housing system in Aotearoa New Zealand

Accessible formats of the report’s executive summary will be available in March-April 2023.

Please email [email protected] if you would like to be sent a copy when it is ready.

Press release: Emergency housing system in breach of human rights, but not beyond repair

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Emergency & transitional housing

Experiences

"As a sole parent I moved more than ten times over my children's' primary and secondary schooling. It cost a lot to move and was often because housing was inadequate- moldy cold and damp which made both my and my sons asthma worse, or if it was nicer, it would be only a matter of time before the rent went up to over 60% of my income or the landlord told me she was selling it or moving family in.... there was no security of tenure...eventually after living in an outdoor shed at my sisters for three months with both my kids I got a council flat (only two bedroom but I was happy to sleep in the lounge and give both my kids a room each.) Later on I got into a relationship and in a couple we bought a house with no deposit but two ok incomes made this possible. After 10 years I left this relationship and unfortunately came out with very little financial redress....so it was back to insecure rentals, but this time with an older teenage daughter and then my son as he needed to move back in aged 21. For a while, cramped over inflated three bedroom flat, again for 60% of my income, which meant saving to try and buy a home felt impossible again.

 

I am now 53, and though both my children are in there twenties, I am still really hard struggling to save for a home to buy despite saving. I moved onto my mums property and got a rental cabin to save costs while I have saved. I have been looking at short term contracts in Australia to try and save quickly enough to be able to buy a one as I'm worried now about ageism in terms of how financial lenders view people with less than 15 years until retirement age. It really plays on my mind that I have no housing security. If there were decent local council run homes with access to green space, gardens and stability of tenure, I would feel less insecure than I do when faced with the private rental market where ageism also applies.


When one of my young adult children was unwell I needed to find a rental for myself and my adult child, it was impossible. Every flat viewing meant waiting in queues with what seemed like at least 50 younger people and there was a definite bias towards a younger professional couple in the rental market. This meant that we eventually moved into a substandard flat which was overpriced for what it was. Existing only on my income at this time. It got to the point where I was spending more than I earned to live so had to move out of the rea and find a new job somewhere a lot cheaper which was luckily possible but caused a breakdown in my and my young adult child's relationship.

Even though I haven't been personally in need of emergency accommodation I work with pregnant women and new mothers who are by necessity in emergency accommodation and they are often really isolated from support and feel quite unsafe. I have had many flats in my time where landlords didn't respect tenancy rights or failed to maintain the property to a fit standard. My best flat was a council flat but it was income tested and as soon as I was $50 above the income threshold per week I knew I needed to move on before the next review so that meant going back into an over priced private rental market.

I feel our whole system is set up in a way that housing is a commodity rather than the focus being on housing as a human right. People who already have a home leverage against that to buy one more or two more or three or more... I know some people who have bought one extra and I can see why they have (to help a grown up child into housing often as co-owners) but so many people haven't got that option now. I think there should be restrictions on how many houses one person/private company can buy and only "not for profit" community trusts or local councils or iwi/hapū providers should be able to own for rental more than for houses. They need to be audited also to ensure they are meeting regulations around provision of accessible, affordable and livable community housing.

I also think banking regulations should restrict how many houses people can buy. They could do this by raising LTV ratios for investors to having to have a 30% deposit for one extra home, 50% deposit for a third and 100% deposit for a fourth. For first home buyers it should be 5% deposit so that first home buyers have an advantage, rather than how it is now where they are disadvantaged.

Change the laws around tax and banking finance regulations to reduce commodification of housing, and build more houses."

 

*Susan's name has been changed in this experience to protect their identity