Annual report 2016 cover

Contributing to a fair, efficient social housing market

Suitable housing plays an important role in enabling people to do well in life, raise healthy families, succeed in education and work, and strengthen their communities. We help those who have the highest need into social housing, and we assist people to move towards housing independence where they are able to do so.

We work alongside the Treasury, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and Housing New Zealand to deliver the Government’s social housing reform programme.

Over the last two years our social housing role has expanded. We support people in need of social housing by managing needs assessment and the social housing register, and purchasing tenancies with the Income-Related Rent Subsidy. This ensures that appropriate housing and support are available for those who need it.

During the year we began testing a social investment approach to ensure that social housing is used by the right people at the right time, for the right duration and cost.

Managing and improving the operation of the social housing register

Through our management of the social housing register we aim to reduce vulnerability by improving efficiency and flow through the system so that those with the most need for social housing can access it. We work intensively with Housing New Zealand and community housing providers to match people to housing that suits their needs.

At 30 June 2016 there were 5,012 applications on the social housing register, an increase of 10.4 percent compared with the same time last year.

We have begun a review of the Social Allocation System, the process that assesses and prioritises eligibility for the social housing register. The review will determine whether the needs assessment is fit for purpose and well integrated.

This year we launched a programme to reset public expectations of social housing so that people understand that social housing is to meet a housing need for the duration of that need.

Under this programme, we will remove applicant households from the social housing register for 13 weeks if they decline a vacant social house without a good and sufficient reason. To determine whether a client has a good and sufficient reason for declining the offer of a property, we will consider the information provided by the housing provider and the client.

Each case will be considered on its merits. Most people who decline a property have a good reason for doing so. Some factors we take into consideration are proximity to essential services or the client’s workplace, whether the property meets the assessed needs of the client, or whether requiring the client to accept the offer would have an adverse effect on their health, wellbeing or safety. Those who did not have a good and sufficient reason made up less than 10 percent of the 1,152 who declined an offer of social housing between the introduction of the programme in January 2016 and 30 June.

Systems development

During the year we successfully completed the migration of data from Housing New Zealand’s Northgate Kotahi system to our own Client Management System. Having data on our own system gives us a fuller picture of social housing tenants’ circumstances and the help tenants and their families may be entitled to. We also enhanced systems to improve information sharing between ourselves and community housing providers.

Supporting people into housing independence

Over the last two years we have developed a range of support to people on the social housing register and those already in social housing to become more independent, by helping them access alternative housing in the private market.

Relocation away from Auckland

In June 2016 we introduced a support package to assist applicants who are willing to relocate away from Auckland. This is a new one-off non-recoverable payment to help with the costs associated with relocating.

The package assists people with accessing sustainable housing opportunities outside of Auckland, by way of a new one-off non-recoverable Relocation Assistance payment of up to $5,000 to help with actual and reasonable direct moving costs.

Housing support products

We also provide financial support to help households into housing independence where appropriate. In 2015/2016 we helped over 800 people into their private rentals, by providing:

  • 623 Bond Grants
  • 195 Transition to Alternative Housing Grants
  • 113 Moving Assistance payments
  • 31 Tenancy Costs Cover payments
  • 211 Letting Fee approvals.

Tenancy reviews

Reviewing social housing tenancies helps to free social housing for those who most need it, by ensuring the right people are in the right house, for the right duration and cost. In 2015/2016 we began the tenancy review process for 5,011 households in social housing. Following the 2,774 reviews that had an outcome, 842 households left social housing, including 609 who voluntarily moved into private accommodation and 103 who bought their own homes.

Increasing supply and diversity in the social housing market

Increasing the supply of social housing in the right places is critical to reducing vulnerability.

Throughout the year we worked to address challenges in securing additional places for social housing. This included working with community housing providers (CHPs) to increase diversity and options in the social housing market.

We worked closely with the Tāmaki Regeneration Company (TRC) to transfer approximately 2,800 Housing New Zealand properties to TRC.

Changes to the Housing Restructuring and Tenancy Matters Act 1992 have enabled us to enter into tailored agreements for social housing places. We ran a successful Request for Proposal process in Auckland, initially seeking an additional 300 places but securing over 500. These places will be delivered by five CHPs and will be ready for use within the next three years.

We are currently seeking 1,000 additional places and have established a social housing supply team in Auckland to broker tailored agreements with the sector to secure additional places.

Purchasing Intentions

Each year, we publish a Purchasing Intentions statement to help the market understand the types of tenancies we expect to purchase [1]. It contains information on performance measures, the characteristics and needs of people living in, or in need of, social housing, and how we work with social housing providers. We expect our next Purchasing Intentions release to be available in late October 2016.

Subsidising social housing availability

As at 30 June 2016:

  • 60,995 tenancies were receiving the Income-Related Rent Subsidy (up 74 from 30 June 2015), of which 25,759 were in Auckland
  • community housing providers were providing 3,120 Income-Related Rent Subsidised places nationally (up 2,880 from 30 June 2015), with 2,798 in Auckland.

This work contributes to the following Ministry outcomes:

  • More people are able to participate in and contribute positively to their communities and society
  • Fewer children and people are vulnerable

Spotlight on:

Emergency housing

Ensuring accommodation is available for people who urgently require a place to stay is a critical part of our social housing role. During the year we have seen an increasing demand for and pressure on emergency housing support, particularly in the Auckland area. In response, we have enhanced the services and support available to people with an urgent need for accommodation, through financial assistance and referral to emergency housing providers. For example, on a daily basis our Auckland Emergency Housing Liaison Officer is in regular contact with emergency housing providers to identify available vacancies and services for vulnerable clients.

In September 2015 Cabinet agreed to a $2 million short-term emergency housing response for Auckland, supporting emergency accommodation and providing wraparound support services. Specialist provider Emerge Aotearoa is providing 30 places for individuals or families, for a stay of up to 12 weeks, meaning a further 120 people are housed each year in addition to the emergency housing that was already available.

In 2015/2016 we completed a review of funding for emergency housing. The review led to changes to our funding arrangements, including developing a new emergency housing funding model. The model aims to create a more sustainable and effective emergency housing sector.

Budget 2016 included a $41.6 million boost for emergency accommodation, including:

  • a new non-recoverable Special Needs Grant for those in emergency situations (as well as supporting those in need, this dedicated grant will help us track demand for emergency housing more effectively)
  • contracts for fast-tracked funding for emergency housing places in areas of high demand.

The new initiatives are now being implemented.

We are also continuing to support vulnerable families and single people in need of housing in Christchurch through the Christchurch short-term housing response.

This work forms part of an ongoing work programme on emergency housing. The Government will continue to look at how it can best support vulnerable people in emergency situations.


[1] The term ‘purchase’ in this context refers only to tenancies. It does not mean we buy social housing properties or act as a landlord.