Crime Prevention Group President Sunny Kaushal said emergency housing in the city center was partly responsible for the spike in crime. Photo / Jason Oxenham
An Auckland-based crime prevention group says taxpayer money for emergency housing is being used to build “nesting grounds for crime”.
An Official Information Act request revealed that emergency housing subsidies for Auckland and Wellington have cost taxpayers $400million since 2017.
Figures show the number of people in need of emergency accommodation has more than doubled, from 3,561 in 2017 to 7,374 last year.
The number of grants increased from 16,656 to 51,099 as costs increased sixfold from $20.7 million to $116 million in 2021.
Police data shows crime in Auckland city center surpassed the pre-pandemic period in the 12 months to March with 5,633 robberies, 2,130 assaults and 154 aggravated robberies.
Sunny Kaushal, head of the Crime Prevention Group and president of the Dairy and Business Owners’ Group, believes the rise in emergency housing and crime is linked.
Downtown Auckland is home to the 501 – deportees from Australia named after the policy used to deport them based on character.
“The government is putting drug addicts, 501s and vulnerable homeless people under one roof in emergency housing, creating perfect nests to multiply crime with our taxpayer dollars,” Kaushal said.
“Our cities are not a nursery for the 501s.”
In June, Acting Police Area Commander for Auckland City Inspector Grae Anderson told the Herald that some 501s were dangerous individuals who could influence those who did not have security networks. strong support.
“So you have general residents, you have vulnerable people, and you have people who are ready to take advantage of those vulnerabilities and have the recipe for creating, shall we say, a perfect storm,” he said. then declared.
The data also showed that full-time staff at the Department of Social Development in central Auckland had risen from 80 in January 2017 to 140 in March 2022.
Kaushal said ministry staff had also increased by 194 in Wellington “but the problems got worse”.
“People with high needs are being dumped in Auckland and Wellington and businesses and shoppers are feeling the effects of crime and disorder,” Kaushal said.
The group said specialized facilities offering comprehensive services were urgently needed to start, and that the dumping of people with “complex needs into our cities” must stop.
National Housing Party spokesman Chris Bishop said residents of Wellington and Auckland know firsthand the effects of emergency housing in the city centre, and ‘it’s a disaster’ .
“The government has placed people with mental health and addiction issues next to drug dealers and gang members and just said ‘good luck’ to them. That’s not kindness and that’s not not fair to them or the surrounding residents,” Bishop said. .
“MSD barely monitors what’s going on in emergency housing. It’s a shame.”
Social Development and Employment Minister Carmel Sepuloni, however, said emergency housing numbers stabilized over the year and are now starting to fall.
At its peak last November, there were 4,980 households in emergency accommodation, but that figure fell to 4,113 at the end of June, Sepuloni said.
Of these, 831 were in Auckland and 486 in the Wellington area.
“Most emergency housing clients in Auckland are located outside the CBD,” Sepuloni said.
“MSD works hard to help people move out of emergency housing and into long-term, sustainable housing.”
According to Sepuloni, most were able to find longer-term housing after about six months on average.
“We don’t want to use motels for long-term emergency housing, but we have found ourselves with a housing crisis and it will take time to build the number of homes we need to house our most vulnerable people. “, she said.
Sepuloni said the government was making “very good progress” with building 10,000 more permanent public homes.
“Until they are built, we will continue to ensure that people have the option of having a roof over their heads,” she said.
Data obtained by the Herald also revealed that since 2016, 2,500 motels have housed MSD tenants at a total cost of $881 million.
Karen Hocking, general manager of housing at MSD Group, said most people in emergency accommodation are respectful of the accommodation provided, other guests and the local community.
“MSD’s use of CBD-based suppliers in Auckland has generally declined since the initial level four Covid alert in 2020,” Hocking said.
“Emergency housing is not our first option – it is a last resort. When someone in urgent need comes to us for help, we will work with them to find housing.
“We understand that motels are not ideal, but it is extremely important to us that people in housing difficulty are not left to sleep on the streets or in cars.”
Hocking said the department maintains regular contact with motel owners, partner agencies and police to proactively identify issues and respond to issues raised.
“In Auckland we are engaged with the Auckland Rough Sleepers Steering Group and Heart of the City, while in Wellington we support the City Council’s Te Mahana scheme,” she said.
“Everyone in emergency housing has a case manager who helps them access MSD products and services, as well as connect them to employment and training opportunities.”
Hocking said emergency accommodation clients can have complex needs.
“Our dedicated case managers and housing navigators ensure they can access the income and employment supports available to them,” she said.
“Our staff can also connect people in emergency accommodation with other support services, such as budget counseling and substance abuse services, to address issues underlying their homelessness.”