Accommodation supplements nudge $30m a week, put pressure on welfare system

Housing affordability and rising rents are putting pressure on New Zealand's welfare system, with the Government spending close to $30 million every week topping up people's accommodation costs.

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Growing accommodation costs are putting added stress on the welfare system. Source: 1 NEWS

Figures obtained by 1 NEWS show the Government spends $27.9 million each week on accommodation supplements.

In 2016 that meant around $71 a week for each household, but in 2018 that had gone up to $96 a week.

And it's not just going to those on benefits.

Fifty-eight thousand, known as the working poor, need the Government's help to pay the rent.

Nationwide, more than 290,000 people are now receiving an accommodation supplement.

Ricardo Menendez March of Auckland Action Against Poverty says New Zealand has "an economic system at the moment that doesn't allow people to earn enough to pay for the rent and other basic expenses. So it is no surprise". 

The elderly are particularly vulnerable. A pensioner living alone earns about $400 a week after tax. Forty-thousand of those on superannuation or veterans' benefits need a top up.

Kevin Lamb of Age Concern Auckland says the number of people over the age of 65 in New Zealand will double over the next 15 to 20 years. 

"So that 40,000 today, that's going to be a lot more tomorrow."

National leader Simon Bridges told TVNZ1's Breakfast the increase per household on accommodation supplements stems from "more people on the dole, but also serious rises in the cost of living that this Government needs to front up and explain".     

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni, in turn, pins the blame on National.

"We came into Government, there was a housing crisis. And for us, we're ramping up our housing build as well as making sure that we're providing people with the immediate support that they need," she said.

The Government's welfare review is due out next month.