That escalated quickly. On Monday Prime Minister John Key airily dismissed concerns about people being forced to live in cars and garages with a suggestion that people should "talk to Work and Income", with the implication that they would solve it. Two days later, Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett is forced to admit that WINZ is not resourced to solve the problem and that they don't have enough state houses:
Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett says there's no guarantee that homeless families would get a roof over their heads after contacting Work and Income.
Her comments come after Prime Minister John Key said Kiwis living out of cars and garages should contact the welfare agency where they would receive support.
Bennett said Work and Income would try their best to help, but it depended on what support was available.
"Look, I can't guarantee that," she said on RNZ.
"What I would say though is that we would do everything that we could do help them and it would depend on the kind of circumstances that they're in, whats available and the assistance that we could give."
Social housing was at 97 per cent occupancy, said the Minister.
Oh, and that $41 million for "emergency housing" the government announced earlier in the month? Turns out that that's funding existing places rather than new ones. Yes, its the old strategy of re-announcing existing resources as a substitute for action, creating perceptions rather than fixing reality. Which again shows how much National cares about this.
But remember, they have $3 billion for tax cuts for the rich. That's four times what the government spends on subsidising state housing. It has the resources to fix this problem if it wanted to. The problem is that National doesn't want to.
But kiwis care more than National does. We don't like seeing people forced to live in cars. We think every kiwi should have a roof over their heads. And we think the government should make that happen when the market inevitably fails. If National won't, its time for a government which will.