Housing First

Housing First recognises that it is much easier for people to address complex needs, such as mental health and addiction, once they have a stable place to live.

Housing First aims to provide permanent housing quickly, then offers tailored support for as long as it is needed to help people stay in their homes and address the underlying support needs that led to their experience of homelessness.

Housing First support service providers find warm, safe housing that fits the needs of the individual, family or whānau — whether that’s a private rental, public housing or supported living. Support service providers also help manage the tenancy and property.

Who is Housing First for?

Housing First is for individuals, families and whānau who: 

  • are sleeping rough, or in other places not designed for habitation (for example, cars) for a total of 12 months or more in the previous three years
  • have high or complex support needs 
  • need intensive on-going support services to help them stay housed

Housing First does not require people to meet certain conditions (such as sobriety or mental health treatment) before they qualify for a home.

Housing First core principles

Services to support people into housing align to the values of Rangatiratanga (self-determination), Whānaungatanga (positive connections) and Manaakitanga (self-worth and empowerment).

The international Housing First model is based on five core principles.

1. Immediate access to housing with no “readiness conditions”

Housing is offered without any conditions. It just requires a willingness by people to engage with support services and be in housing.

2. Consumer choice and self-determination

People have choices about the housing and support that’s right for them. However, housing choice may be constrained by the practicalities of availability and cost.

3. Individualised and person-centred support

Support is tailored to each person’s needs and goals, and given for as long as needed.

4. Harm reduction and recovery-orientation approach

Holistic support is given to help people make positive steps towards wellbeing and reduce harmful behaviours.

5. Social and community integration

People are encouraged and supported to be part of their communities and connect with whānau, support networks, social activities, education and work.

Working together to end homelessness

International evidence shows that the Housing First model has been especially effective in helping people who are experiencing homelessness and have high and complex needs to stay housed and lead healthier, safer lives. The collective action approach coordinates multiple players in local housing systems to ensure regional homelessness is rare, brief, and non-recurring. Housing First support service providers work with property agents and private landlords, councils, Kāinga Ora – Homes and Communities, HUD, other agencies and a range of health and social services.

Housing First launched in Auckland with government and Auckland Council funding in March 2017. The Wellbeing Budget 2019 funding ensures that Housing First in Aotearoa New Zealand is sustainable and can continue to deliver services for over 2,700 people and whānau over the next few years. In total, the government is investing $197 million to strengthen Housing First.  

Housing First Evaluation and Rapid Rehousing Review Phase One Report

HUD welcomes the phase one report of the Housing First evaluation and Rapid Rehousing trial review completed by Litmus, an independent evaluation and research company.

How we're tracking

The Housing First and Rapid Rehousing programmes are part of our broader housing and support response to homelessness in Aotearoa. Since the launch of Housing First in 2017 and the drafting of this report we have:

  • Worked flexibly and in partnership with providers to ensure they could continue to deliver the essential support services offered through these programmes, particularly during lockdowns, with Rapid Rehousing being introduced as a new service during the first lockdown in 2020 and forming a part of our COVID response
  • Reviewed contracting arrangements as part of our ongoing relationship management approach
  • Worked with Māori and iwi providers and Te Matapihi to reflect on and make changes to contracting arrangements to ensure these services are responsive to Māori and our Aotearoa context
  • Released the Government Policy Statement on Housing and Urban Development and MAIHI Ka Ora – National Māori housing strategy, and worked with government agencies on an 18-month review of the Homelessness Action Plan 

Learnings from these actions and ongoing work to respond to the Wai 2750 Kaupapa Inquiry into housing policy and services will also help inform work to address homelessness.

These actions signal new ways of working and partnering with individuals and organisations across the housing and urban development system to deliver change and address critical gaps for Māori going forward.

We welcome this report and look forward to findings from the second phase of the evaluation and review. The second phase will incorporate the voice of whānau and individuals receiving Housing First and Rapid Rehousing services.

HUD will provide a comprehensive response upon completion of the evaluation and review. Insights and findings from both reports will be incorporated and used by HUD to develop and improve its policies, design and implementation of these housing programmes.

Housing First around New Zealand

The two pūrākau, He oranga ngākau, He pikinga wairua and He Whare Kōrero o Mangatakitahi, recount the journey of two Housing First programmes in Aotearoa and the whānau (known as kaewa and manaha respectively) they support.

Published: March 14, 2022