We continued to help people into sustainable housing - Annual Report 2019/20

Having a place to call home is the foundation for almost everything in a person’s life, but too often our clients cannot access suitable or sustainable housing.

We want to help people maintain existing tenancies wherever possible, and we want to respond quickly with the right support when or before people become homeless.

This year there was an increase of nearly 47 percent in the number of people on the Public Housing Register, to 21,879. This increase continues to be driven by the high cost of housing relative to household incomes, especially among beneficiary and low-income households, and the continuing shortage of public housing and affordable rentals for low-income whānau.

The number of households accessing Emergency Housing Special Needs Grants (EHSNGs) also increased sharply, particularly as we worked to ensure that vulnerable New Zealanders had a safe place to self-isolate as necessary during the April/May lockdown. During this period we worked with other agencies to provide support for the emergency housing needs of additional client cohorts. For example, we worked with NZ Police to support people who could not remain in their normal place of residence because they had been served with a Police Safety Order.

We supported the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and housing providers’ efforts to provide approximately 1,200 motel/hotel units to meet the immediate housing needs of New Zealand’s rough-sleeping community during the first period of COVID-19 restrictions. The collaborative approach taken by agencies, providers and local communities ensured assistance was available to those in need of self-isolation accommodation, and temporarily helped to reduce street homelessness in New Zealand to its lowest level in years.

The restrictions on movement and activity during lockdown also made it harder for us to move people into more sustainable accommodation in transitional and public housing as providers focused on supporting existing tenants. This led to more people spending longer in emergency housing. Critical housing activities, including referrals to transitional housing providers and placements into public housing, resumed in June 2020.

We have responded to the increased demand for housing assistance with new interventions and operational improvements, including:

  1. extending the maximum grant period for EHSNGs from seven nights to 21 (for people in specific circumstances) – this reduces the time needed for processing tasks and allows our staff to have quality conversations with clients about their housing needs
  2. investing in Intensive Case Management, Navigator and Housing Broker roles, to ensure that those with the most complex needs can receive dedicated support to help them access sustainable housing.

We continue to work with Kāinga Ora [1] and registered community housing providers to improve our operational processes and, as a priority, to match the most vulnerable New Zealanders with available public housing. We also continue to work with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development to implement the Aotearoa/New Zealand Homelessness Action Plan, and to ensure that new public and transitional housing is sufficient to meet demand and is targeted to the areas of highest need.


  1. Kāinga Ora – Homes and Communities was established as a Crown entity in October 2019, replacing the Housing New Zealand Corporation. Return to text

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