According to Geraldine Oliver, “we’ve got housing all wrong in New Zealand”. And if you read her column in The Gisborne Herald last week (August 1), you might be forgiven for believing this was the case. However, it contained a number of factual inaccuracies and false accusations.
The first is the claim that, based on a Yale survey, New Zealand tops the list of developed countries for the number of homeless people per capita. But the major flaw with the Yale survey is that it does not compare apples with apples, so to suggest New Zealand is the worst in the world for homelessness is quite wrong.
The way countries define homelessness varies significantly — some have broad definitions of insecure housing like ours, others are narrower, and some countries have no official definition at all.
If New Zealand adopted a definition similar to Japan’s, we could also see ourselves with one of the lowest rates of homelessness in the OECD. The completely different definitions result in absurdities in the report, like New Zealand having more homeless people than Mexico (41,207 vs 40,911) — despite Mexico having a population more than 25 times greater than New Zealand’s.