The ex Minister for Social Development issued a press release in May this year entitled Helping more families into rental housing.
Today’s Budget announcement provides funding for MSD’s new functions as well as new money to encourage people who can to move to alternate accommodation.I wanted to know if this meant an increase in accommodation supplement for some people.
“Some people may struggle to move to alternative social housing because of upfront costs such as bond, letting fees and moving costs, or because landlords perceive them as risky tenants,” Mrs Bennett says.
“A new housing support package totalling $8 million over four years will deliver a range of assistance to support people to overcome these barriers. It will also help those who, with a little assistance, could manage private accommodation.”
This new assistance will be available from July 2014, and will be available only to households likely to be able to maintain independent housing.
So I wrote to MSD asking:
1/ Since July 2014 what is the single highest weekly accommodation supplement paid? 2/ What region was it paid in? 3/ What was the average accommodation supplement paid in the
period July 1 - October 31, 2014? 4/ What was the average accommodation supplement paid in the
period July 1 - October 31, 2013? 5/ What is the maximum amount available in accommodation supplement currently? 6/ What was the maximum amount available in accommodation
supplement prior to July 2014?
Yesterday I received their response. Initially I was pleasantly surprised because they actually managed to get a response to me within the required time frame - or at least the month.
But essentially I am none the wiser for it.
I didn't get the answers to 3 and 4. Table One data (based on individuals and a snapshot of the week at the end of the quarter) shows no lift in the average accommodation supplement paid between June 2014 and Sept 2014. However I find it quite surprising that there is no variation in the average amount paid over each of the periods provided. And I have to assume that Table Two (current at April 2014) is the answer to questions 5 and 6 and still applicable now. I must also assume that Table Two is the answer to questions 1 and 2 and no-one is paid above the published highest available rate. But a little more thinking on this has made me remember that the Temporary Additional Support benefit can be used to cover
- accommodation costs not covered by the Accommodation Supplement
And is available for up to 13 weeks but can be reapplied for after 13 weeks if there is an "ongoing deficiency of income". Not so temporary.
The most recent statistics I can find show a big jump in numbers receiving this benefit between 2008 and 2012
table TS.4: Financial assistance paid to clients granted Temporary Additional Support or
a Special Benefit
a Special Benefit
|Financial assistance paid when Temporary Additional Support or Special Benefit granted||Clients granted Temporary Additional Support or a Special Benefit1,2|
|Domestic Purposes Benefits||42,071||70,125||88,436||89,121||89,113|
|Other main benefits3||5,665||9,417||11,223||11,955||12,895|
|New Zealand Superannuation or |
|None of the above assistance4||10,783||16,842||20,370||19,767||19,406|
What I am trying to establish is, are WINZ/MSD providing more assistance with housing costs but doing it quietly to reduce the risk that landlords will react and push up rents?
Finally I asked
7/ What policy advice regarding the accommodation supplement has been
provided by the "expert group" referred to in the Six Monthly Report of the
Ministerial Committee on Poverty
MSD acknowledges that a document exists but has refused to release it on the basis that "...it is under active consideration. The release of this information is likely to prejudice the quality of information received and the wider public interest of effective government would not be served."
Anyone want to translate that for me?