Annual Report 2016-17 cover

Increasing and diversifying social housing with responsive housing support

Demand for and supply of social housing and emergency housing are affected by policy and regulatory settings and pressures elsewhere in the housing market. Demand for social housing from low-income households is increasing faster than supply, and pressures in the private rental market also make it more difficult for tenants to exit social housing, with a flow-on impact on the time people spend on the social housing register.

We work to ensure that all New Zealanders with serious housing needs have access to safe, secure and stable accommodation and the right support services. Acknowledging the housing affordability and availability issues currently confronting many New Zealand families, we are working to deliver the right mix of additional support across the housing continuum.

Increasingly, our approach to the delivery of social housing will be informed by the social housing valuation (SHV), which will give us a better understanding of what life factors and situations are affecting vulnerable New Zealanders, and help us to design evidence-based services in response. The SHV approach is different from the benefit system valuation in that we won’t be looking to reduce overall liability each year – in fact if we do the right thing and house the people who are most in need, this liability will go up. Our Social Housing Purchasing Strategy reflects the need to deliver more social housing places for vulnerable New Zealanders, and confirms our intention to purchase over 6,400 more social housing places of the right size, and in the locations with the greatest need, by June 2020.

Our social housing role

We lead the Social Housing Reform Programme (SHRP) [53], working alongside the Treasury, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), Housing New Zealand and Te Puni Kōkiri. In 2016/2017 we placed a strong focus on engaging with providers and the housing sector to:

  • increase and diversify the supply of social housing, including transitional housing and emergency housing support for people with nowhere to live
  • support people to access services and initiatives to help them stay safely housed, address the issues that put them at risk, and build more independent lives.

While we continue to assess people’s housing needs, manage the social housing register and work with providers to match people to the right housing, we have also responded to increased demand for social housing and emergency housing.

At 30 June 2017 there were 6,773 applications on the Social Housing and Transfer Registers, an increase of 26 percent compared with the same time in 2016. We have moved fast to house and support people who urgently need a place to live. In July 2016 we introduced an Emergency Housing Special Needs Grant: during the year to 30 June 2017 we supported 8,196 households with $33.5 million in grants. The Grant supports people and families with the cost of short-term accommodation in times of urgent need. The aim is for tenants to spend no longer than seven days in such housing.

We have secured 1,123 additional emergency housing places, 436 of them after enlisting a panel of 39 community housing providers (CHPs). For people with nowhere safe to live, emergency housing provides warm, secure short-term accommodation for an average of 12 weeks along with tailored social support, including assistance towards longer-term sustainable accommodation.

During the year we launched a number of initiatives to help people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness to be housed, retain a tenancy and access the social support they need.

These initiatives will give us evidence about what works so that we can invest in support that makes a difference in the future, and include:

  • the Sustaining Tenancies initiative, which was launched in early 2017 and in which providers work closely with up to 940 social housing tenants whose complex needs put them at risk of losing their tenancies
  • Housing First, an internationally acclaimed programme to address chronic homelessness, which was launched with CHPs in Auckland in March 2017 and provides 472 homeless people with a stable place to live and wraparound support services.

Actively shaping the social housing market

We work alongside the Treasury, MBIE and Housing New Zealand, enlisting the housing sector and community providers to create diverse and responsive social housing and services.

In December 2016 we issued our latest Social Housing Purchasing Strategy. We intend to purchase over 6,400 additional social housing places by June 2020 (almost half of these will be one-bedroom properties).

The Purchasing Strategy is based on detailed data about social housing demand nationwide, and enables providers, developers, investors and others in the housing sector to plan investment in social housing.

To meet the high demand for social housing where it is most needed, and to encourage the provision of social housing by CHPs, we introduced more flexible funding arrangements. We have a Request for Proposals (RFP) open until November 2017 for 1,000 additional Income-Related Rent Subsidy (IRRS) places, with flexible funding arrangements including long-term agreements, development funding towards new builds, and ongoing operating supplements. We established a Social Housing Supply Team in Auckland to work with the market to develop proposals, and by 30 June 2017 we had delivered 151 out of the 427 new IRRS places that were contracted for delivery under this RFP.

During April and May 2017 we ran regional roadshows around New Zealand to engage with the housing sector and to inform, and gather information from, the local sector about local housing needs and homelessness, and to encourage the housing sector to work with us in developing housing solutions.

We are strengthening and diversifying the social housing market. We now have 43 registered CHPs, 34 of which have contracts to supply social housing places with us. Community housing providers now own or manage more than 4,600 social housing tenancies.

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

During 2016/2017:

2,772 tenancy reviews were completed

243 households left social housing for private housing

50 households entered into home ownership

Enhancing the social housing system through valuations and the social investment approach

In June 2017 we released the baseline 2015 SHV, which captures the first full year for which we had some responsibility for social housing. The SHV is the foundation of our social investment approach to social housing. Over time it will provide us with increasingly sophisticated evidence to enable us to develop policy and target resources to make the most impact.

The SHV provides reassurance that current housing policies and initiatives are on the right path. From short-term emergency housing support to long-term housing development and social interventions, the initiatives we are driving through the SHRP are targeted to the same groups that the valuation has identified as benefiting the most from our help.

The SHV will increasingly inform our approach to the delivery of social housing, and will help us to:

  • better understand what life factors and situations are affecting vulnerable New Zealanders
  • design evidence-based services in response.


[53] Five government agencies, led by MSD, are working together with community providers and the housing sector to increase and diversify the supply of transitional (emergency) housing and social housing, and to support people with services to help them stay safely housed, address the issues that put them at risk, and build more independent lives.