How many weeks of emergency accomodation have been purchased during 2020 and 2021

Ms Hartley made this Official Information request to Ministry of Social Development

Response to this request is delayed. By law, Ministry of Social Development should normally have responded promptly and by (details and exceptions)

From: Ms Hartley

Dear Ministry of Social Development,
I would like to know the following information:
My assumption is that as the ministry who are responsible for arranging emergency accomodation, that MSD is also the ministry who are funding this and who are responsible for making decisions on the best way to spend the budget government has allocated for this purpose. If my assumption is incorrect, I am sure that MSD, as the department responsible for the operational management of emergency housing, will know who to forward my query on to for the financial details and I request that they do so.
How many household weeks of emergency accomodation have been purchased by MSD (or whichever government department is responsible for these payments) during 2020 and 2021.
To clarify what I mean by ‘household weeks’,
I mean one week in emergency hotel/motel accomodation for one household (members of a couple or family who required housing and were housed together in one hotel or motel room/suite/apartment.
So for example if one family were housed in emergency accomodation for 6 weeks, and two more families were housed in emergency accomodation for a week each, and a couple were in a hotel room for 10 weeks. Then the total household weeks for the above would be 18 household weeks.
I would like to know the number of ‘household weeks’ by calendar year along with the total amount spend by calendar year so that I can easily calculate the average cost per week, and also understand how many weeks of accomodation were purchased at this average cost.
If applicable I would also like to know what research has gone into other ways to solve the current housing crisis using this money, including what options were considered, and whether these other options were approved as better options or declined and the reasons for their being declined?
I would also like to know if the assertion in the document presented to the United Nations by Leilani Farha to the 47th session of the Human Rights council, specifically that emergency housing is costing in the vicinity of $4000 per week is correct? If this figure is close to the amount being spent, I would also like some confirmation or denial, by someone who has the relevant data, regarding claims via the media that some families are housed in this accomodation for upwards of 6 months (which would be at a cost of just over $100k for each family in housing per 6 months), and whether the claims that some households have been in emergency accomodation for as long as 2 years (at a cost of over $400k per household) are factual?
I would also like to request any and all information that is legally available for release under the act, that relates to any and all investigations and considerations the government has given to other ways to use the money that is currently being spent on emergency accomodation. This is as well as all investigations, reports, guidance documents, and any other recommendations presented to MSD or other government departments that discuss alternative ways the money spent in the past on emergency accomodation could have been spent. I would also like to request all details of what efforts have been made by MSD and/or other government departments tasked with the decision making around emergency housing, to obtain reports, recommendations, or studies. And I request details of any other efforts that have been initiated by MSD/the government to ensure they were aware of all the alternative options to manage the need for emergency accomodation in both the short and long term, that the funds could have been spent on. These reports should contain specific details including estimated costings, of any alternative solutions or spending options that were given, the pros and cons of each and as much as possible details of how the decision to remain with the current model was made.
Where there are not 3rd party reports or recommendations received by MSD that offer guidance, advice, financial costings and/or recommendations as to the best way to utilise the money currently being spent on emergency accomodation:
If there are no such reports, I would like to request details of the specific measures that were taken in an attempt to source all relevant information. For example which agencies or organisations were approached with a request for advice/research/guidance regarding the best and most effective means of meeting both the short term and long term housing need using the money that has been spent and continues to be spent on paying for emergency hotel and motel accomodation. I would like to request copies of the responses from any 3rd party organisations who were approached and who did not ultimately submit a report or recommendations document of some sort, along with any other documentation explaining why they did not, could not or were not accepted to provide the requested information. I would like these documents, in the absence of detailed 3rd party reporting and recommendation docs, to explain why no further reports/guidance docs/or other relevant information have been made available for public consideration that would support the spending as it is and has been carried out.
To clarify: I would like to know in as much specific detail as possible, what efforts were made to ensure the money has been spend in the best way possible. And if no effort has been made to source this information I would like to understand why.
For households who have been in emergency accomodation for terms meeting or exceeding 6 months and two years: The costs of providing this are significant, and are large enough that for even a small number of these households, that money could have been used to purchase land and homes to go on the land.
Amounts of over $100,000 or over $400,000 while not enough to purchase the average Nz house, are enough to purchase land if done intelligently, and are enough to purchase properly built, legally consented tiny homes, or to relocate the many larger homes being offered for free or close to free on sites such as trademe.
For example, if a family has been housed in emergency accomodation for 2 years at a taxpayer cost of $400,000 has the government considered the purchase of large pieces of currently rural/lifestyle block zoned land on the outskirts of main centres, then enacting legislation to allow the splitting of these lblocks of land (ie into 1 or 2 acre sections) and the placement of a tiny house appropriate to the size of the household needing accomodation on this land. For example, spending say $500k-$800k on ten acres bare land, spitting this into 10 one acre blocks, then purchasing a pre built tiny home at a price of $30-80k and relocating it onto each block. At a cost of approximately $130-$180k for each house and land, plus relocation costs, and any other costs to set up services to each individual block of land?
In addition the government has abilities no developer has.. for example the ability to legislate changes to land zoning and resource consenting. And the government has shown in the last 12 months that when a situation is posing a significant risk to the health and well being of a significant number of New Zealanders, the government can move quickly and decisively to enact change in a short time frame. The government has also shown an ability to quickly and effectively gain buy in from a majority of the population, even for changes that have a significant impact on their personal freedom and day to day living, when these changes are necessary for the good of a significant portion of the population. Despite a number of organisations, some of whom would be considered quite powerful within Nz, objecting to the changes imposed during 2020 as a reaction to the Covid-19 crisis. And despite these same organisations often declaring publically that these legislation changes were causing significant harm to them personally or to their business, the government pushed those changes through, often stating in few or many words that the changes were essential for the safety and health of New Zealand’s team of 5 million.
No doubt the suggestions here and those of others in relation to the housing crisis, will also be met with objections by some people or organisations.
I would like to request evidence that these sorts of legislation changes have been considered, and where objections were likely, the objections were considered within the same methodology as used during the Covid crisis. Ie the weighing up of the essential needs for health, and security and safety of a significant portion of New Zealanders (significant, being as is usually understood, any percentage higher than 5%, and my presumption being that well over 5% of New Zealanders have been negatively affected (and continue to be) by the current housing crisis.
And has the government also considered doing a similar project in areas where there has (according to the media) been horticultural or farming employers crying out for staff, so that people in housing need who would thrive in a rural environment can relocate to regions and smaller towns which have demonstrated a significant need for staff?
Surely it makes more sense to spend around $200k once to buy land and a home, than it does to spend between $100 and $400k to put people into emergency accomodation where they come out in no better a situation at the end, (and according to media accounts often a worse situation). And on top of that possibly in some regions where there ar horticultural and other employers who are claiming via the media that they are suffering significant financial hardship due to not being able to source staff, this money would not only be a more efficient use of the money currently spent on hotel and motel accommodation, but might also reduce beneficiary numbers as some of the people needing emergency accomodation can relocate to locations where there is more work available, and when employers in a dire situation can avoid becoming beneficiaries themselves simply because their crops or farm products are going to waste I harvested due to a lack of employees?
Maybe I am missing some key factors in this situation which mean the above suggestions are not possible.. but at the moment to me it appears that there is, as it was put in Leilani’s submission, an astronomical amount of money being spent on what appears to be an inefficient stop gap. A stop gap that does nothing to solve the real problem, and according to numerous media articles may be causing additional damage to the people in housing need. This damage will surely flow on to the rest of society via increased demand on the health and mental health system plus increased demand on the police and other justice departments.
I would like to know how much money is being spent on emergency accomodation and an explanation as to why this amount of money is being spent on temporary accomodation when it seems to me t it would be very easy and quick for a motivated person in government, to source some land and some of the already built housing, that is being offered for purchase on numerous websites such as trademe, and out this money to significantly better use with a far better outcome in the short term, as well as making a tangible contribution to the long term resolution of what is becoming a human rights crisis in this country.
I think the ‘team of 5 million’ should be able to see all the evidence on how much money has been spend on emergency housing as well as all of the evidence that has been done by those who are making the decisions on this spending, to ensure that this money has been spent in the best, most productive and purposeful way possible both for the people in real need of proper safe and secure long term housing, and for the tax payer who is funding this.

Yours faithfully,
Ms Hartley

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From: OIA_Requests (MSD)
Ministry of Social Development

Tēnā koe Ms Hartley,

Thank you for your email received 24 July 2021, under the Official Information Act 1982. Your request has been forwarded to the appropriate officials at National Office to respond. You can expect a decision as soon as reasonably practicable, and in any case not later than 20 working days after the day on which the request was received.

The information you have requested will likely contain Ministry employee names and contact details. We need to consult relevant Ministry employees before deciding whether we can release this information to you, and this will take additional time and effort.

If you do not need the names of Ministry employees who are below tier 4 and/or who are not decision-makers, please advise us as soon as possible and we will treat your request as amended accordingly. 

In any event, the Ministry will make and communicate to you a decision on your request as soon as reasonably practicable, and within the statutory maximum time limits – including the extension of time limits (Section 15A of the Act). 

Nā mātou noa, nā

Official and Parliamentary Information team   |  Ministerial and Executive Services
Ministry of Social Development

Our Purpose:
We help New Zealanders to help themselves to be safe, strong and independent
Ko ta mātou he whakamana tangata kia tū haumaru, kia tū kaha, kia tū motuhake

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From: Ms Hartley

Dear OIA_Requests (MSD),

I do not need the names of employees who are below tier 4 and/or who are not decision makers. If it will make it easier or faster for you to respond to my question, please feel free to omit those names.

I am most interested in the figures which will allow me to calculate the average cost per week for one household in emergency accomodation along with the number of total weeks purchased by MSD and the numbers of individual households who have been in emergency accomodation for any time frame in excess of 6 months. If you can provide me with the information I require to calculate this without including the names of those below tier 4/ or non decision makers, then I will be happy to accept that.

Yours sincerely,

Ms Hartley

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From: Ms Hartley

Dear OIA_Requests (MSD),

To clarify my response above, by ‘total weeks in emergency accomodation’, what I would like to understand for that figure, is the total number of weeks in emergency accomodation (per calendar year) for all households who were provided emergency accomodation. So one household in emergency accomodation for 10 weeks would be 10 weeks, 2 households in emergency accomodation for 3 weeks each would be another 6 accomodation weeks and the total for those three households would be 16, and so on so basically you taking the total number of households in emergency accomodation. And then multiplying for however many weeks each household spent there (whether cumulatively or on separate occasions).

So the total number of accomodation weeks, being one week accomodation for one single household, that were purchased during 2020 calendar year, and during the current calendar year to date.

If you do not have figures by calendar year I would consider accepting by financial year.

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Ms Hartley

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From: OIA_Requests (MSD)
Ministry of Social Development


Attachment 20210820 OIA extension letter HARTLEY.pdf
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Tēnā koe Ms Hartley

 

Please find attached a letter advising of the need to extend the time
available to make a decision on your OIA request received 24 July 2021
until 30 September 2021.

 

Nā mātou noa, nā

 

Official and Parliamentary Information team   |  Ministerial and
Executive Services

Ministry of Social Development

Our purpose:
We help New Zealanders to be safe, strong and independent.
Manaaki Tangata, Manaaki Whānau.

 

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From: Ms Hartley

Dear OIA_Requests (MSD),

I will accept the delay given the current situation in NZ and the need for govt to address this as a priority. I look forward to a response by 30 Sept

Yours sincerely,

Ms Hartley

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Ms Hartley left an annotation ()

Note to anyone reading: i noticed after updating the status that this request still has a setting of a reply being required by 24 August.

I have replied to MSD saying I accept their request to delay reply to 30 Sept as I think this is only fair given the amount of info I am requesting and of course our current Covid situation which has to take priority over most things.
My only options to update the status were either to say I was still waiting, or close the issue. So I selected still waiting as obviously the request is not yet closed.

To the ppl who develop this site it might be useful to have an option for situations like this where the requester of the info can acknowledge and accept a delay in provision of the information if they feel the circumstances of their request warrant allowing the department requested extra time to collate the info they request.

I would also rather get all of the information I have requested at a later date than part or none of it earlier, because the time frame was unrealistic for the responding party.

And to the admin of this site I am hoping this request is not going to be automatically closed on 24/8 but will be left open until the 30th sept at which time either a reply will have been provided or the request can be escalated from there.

Thanks

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