Monday, September 05, 2016

An economic failure as well as a moral one

The growth of homelessness in New Zealand is one of the great moral failures of the National government, symbolising a government focused on cuts and abandoning people to the market. But according to evidence presented to the multiparty inquiry into homelessness, its not just a moral failure, but an economic one as well:

Each person living on the street in New Zealand cost the Government around $65,000 a year, an inquiry into homelessness has heard.

Getting them off the streets and into secure housing could cost as little as $15,000, a University of Otago housing research organisation said.


[He Kainga Oranga]'s "best estimate" was that it cost the Government $65,000 "to keep somebody homeless". These costs were mostly incurred in mental health services and the police costs of addressing both offending by and against homeless people.

Pierse said other countries which had invested in the Housing First approach had found a net economic gain in getting people off the streets.

As with child poverty, the long-term costs of leaving this problem to fester are far, far higher than the short-term costs of simply solving it. So why doesn't the government invest to solve it? Because the long-term is somebody else's term, not theirs. National isn't interested in making decisions with benefits twenty, ten, or even five years down the track. Like the businesses they so obligingly serve, they're interested in the short term, next quarter, maybe at the most next year. They'd rather see people living in cars than spend money, because the benefits of spending that money are far, far beyond their planning horizon. This short-sightedness inflicts huge long-term damage on our society, and costs us all money.

We need a government which will actually address this problem, rather than endlessly giving money away to the rich in tax cuts. And we won't get that under National.