Asia Minute: New Zealand’s Capital Attacks Homelessness

Apr 12, 2019

Wellington, New Zealand
Credit Phillip Capper / CC BY 2.0 / Flickr

According to the latest figures from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Hawaii and New York share the highest rate of homelessness in the country. 46 of every 10,000 residents of Hawaii experienced homelessness at some point last year. The issue is also a point of growing concern in the capital city of New Zealand.

Wellington, New Zealand is putting together a new plan to tackle homelessness, and it’s starting with a reality check. The city council is funding a base line survey to find the extent of the problem, and early indications are that it’s worse than many expected.

The raw numbers may sound relatively modest, about 80 homeless living on the streets in the city’s downtown area, but that information has surprised some policy makers. Most of those interviewed say they want to move into housing — many are on a waiting list for government housing.

The city’s mayor says he suspects the homeless numbers are even higher pointing out that the current count is mostly restricted to the central business district dealing with what officials call the “visible homeless.”

Wellington will soon roll out a Housing First initiative, and the mayor also wants to use some city facilities for more permanent housing. He says the short-term priority is emergency housing, but other longer-term solutions are in the planning stages — including a residential facility for people dealing with addiction.

Housing prices have risen faster than wages across New Zealand in recent years, and homelessness is also a persistent problem in New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland.

According to the latest study done by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, New Zealand’s homeless problem is the most severe among the 35 OECD members.